Elon Musk appears to have given up on trying to camouflage his private-jet travels with an FAA program used by Jeff Bezos and Taylor Swift


After trying to dodge jet-tracking accounts for the better part of a year and even forcing the college student who tracks his jets to stop sharing live data on Twitter, Elon Musk appears to have stopped taking advantage of a federal program designed to help camouflage his air travels.

The Tesla CEO had signed up for a free Federal Aviation Administration program that allows private jet owners to fly incognito using a temporary aircraft registration number in January of 2022, but Musk hasn’t used the program since August 20, 2022, according to the aircraft-tracking company JetSpy.

Musk applied for a new aircraft registration number four times, JetSpy told Insider. The first time the billionaire’s aircraft used the FAA’s privacy ICAO aircraft address program, also known as PIA, was on January 25, 2022, but less than eight months later he applied for his last PIA and only used the temporary aircraft registration number for one flight before returning to his permanent ICAO address, according to JetSpy data.

Musk did not respond to Insider’s request for comment ahead of publication.

Musk’s jet travels first came into the spotlight when University of Central Florida college student Jack Sweeney began posting the billionaire’s travel coordinates on social media to thousands of followers.

Sweeney told Insider he’s not convinced Musk has entirely given up on avoiding jet-tracking accounts like @ElonJet. For instance, the billionaire’s jets are still registered on the FAA’s “Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed” program, or LADD. The list only requires a one-time registration and prevents flight data from being shown on flight-tracking websites like FlightAware or FlightRadar24 that use FAA data, but they will still show up on websites like JetSpy that use a network of independent radios to detect aircraft.

“For the PIA, it’s probably just a huge logistical problem, planes aren’t really designed for you to be changing your code all the time,” Sweeney said. “It’s kind of confusing. He really made such a big deal about being tracked. If I were him, I’d say ‘Why not at least try to keep up with it.”

The FAA launched the PIA program in 2019 and has issued 390 alternate ID codes since the program began, an FAA spokesperson told Insider.

On Wednesday, Forbes reported, citing JetSpy data, that the PIA program has been used to disguise the travels of 48 private jets this year, including the private planes of big names like Jeff Bezos and Taylor Swift.

Musk’s vocal disdain for jet-tracking dates back to 2021 when he offered Sweeney $5,000 to take down his @ElonJet account, but the college student offered him some advice instead — sign up for the FAA’s PIA program. Musk used his first alternate ID through the PIA program about a month later.

The PIA program allows aircraft owners to switch out their registration number every 20 days, according to the FAA, but, it can be a laborious process. Christian Renneissen, Collins Aerospace’s manager for flight deck connectivity, previously told the trade publication AV Buyer that while the PIA program is essentially free, it’s a hassle due to a substantial amount of paperwork. What’s more, the entire process would have to start all over again if the new registration number is exposed and tied to the owner — which, in Musk’s case, can be all too easy.

Sweeney told Insider that Musk’s Gulfstream can be identified by its frequent trips between airports near SpaceX’s launch site in Texas and its headquarters in California.

“It’s pretty easy to spot when you can link Brownsville and Hawthorne together,” he said.

Planes are also required to ditch the PIA for their permanently assigned ICAO address when they fly internationally, which could be an issue for Musk, who visited Shanghai and Rome earlier in 2023.

The incognito registration number also doesn’t prevent Sweeney from tracking the private jet via ADS-B Exchange, a public flight-tracking database.

The FAA acknowledged during a conference last year that the program is not a “silver bullet” solution to jet-tracking.

“The PIA program limits the ability to identify an aircraft in real-time using inexpensive, commercially available receivers,” an FAA spokesperson told Insider. “This does not prevent parties from using alternative methods (plane spotting, movement correlations, etc.) to identify PIA participants.”

The post Elon Musk appears to have given up on trying to camouflage his private-jet travels with an FAA program used by Jeff Bezos and Taylor Swift appeared first on Business Insider.

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