Yes, You Can Track Private Jets. Here's How To Do It

Even though private jets are meant to help protect the privacy of the rich and famous, the reality is very different. They are a more luxurious way to fly, but their tracking information is readily available to anyone with an internet connection. All airplanes are fitted with a GPS tracker in case they get into trouble, and anyone with an ADS-B receiver can read this signal. These movements are then available via the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The top three trackers for following private jets are Google Flight Tracker, FlightAware, and FlightRadar24. In Google Flight Tracker, you only need to input the flight number to find out where it is in the world. FlightAware uses multiple aviation sources to offer a full picture of flight traffic. Similarly, FlightRadar24 utilizes a range of databases to provide an interactive flight map. Users can click on a flight to view a range of details about the aircraft, where it is, and where it is going. While aviation enthusiasts may love tracking private jets, ultra-wealthy owners are less happy about it.

How celebrities get tracked

Tech enthusiast Jack Sweeney created the @ElonJet account on X, formerly known as Twitter, which tracked Elon Musk's private plane in real-time. Musk offered him $5,000 to take it down, and Sweeney asked for $50,000 instead. His Musk and other celebrity tracker accounts were later suspended. He has also made accounts tracking Taylor Swift's private flights, for which he has received cease and desist letters from her legal counsel. They argue that this makes it easier for Swift's movements to be known to potential stalkers or those who wish to harass her.

Sweeney responds that this information is still publicly available, regardless of whether he posts about it or not. He has also made accounts for Donald Trump, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, as well as making points about their carbon footprints. Now, wealthy jet setters are trying to make themselves harder to follow. While they can't prevent flight tracking, there are a few things they can do to stay under the radar as much as possible.

How private flyers make themselves harder to track

One simple way the ultra-rich can make it more difficult for people to track them is to hire a private business plane instead of using their own. As they haven't bought these planes, flight watchers are less likely to know it's them when it comes up on their radar. Despite the extra cost of a private flight, this bill is nothing to them.

Celebrities can also enroll their jet in the LADD Program (Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed). This means that the registration number of a private plane is publicly redacted but still visible to the government. Oprah and Jay-Z are some of the high-profile people who use this method. There is also the Privacy ICAO aircraft address (PIA) program, which obscures the tail numbers in their entirety but only on websites that subscribe to it. However, all these planes still have trackers, so sleuths can still attempt to identify the people traveling on private jets. Unfortunately, whether celebrities like it or not, the internet has made it easy to keep an eye on where their jets are in the sky.