Flying high! Teen says he won’t stop tracking Elon Musk’s hi-tech private jet

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Elon Musk has offered a 19-year-old student R76 000 to take down a Twitter account. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Elon Musk has offered a 19-year-old student R76 000 to take down a Twitter account. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

He’s been offered a car worth R1,6 million and R76 000 in cash. The richest man in the world knows his name and has pleaded with him to leave him alone and stop tracking his $70 million (R1,06 billion) private jet. 

But student Jack Sweeney (19) won’t budge.

The Twitter account Sweeney started in 2020 to track the tech billionaire’s jet has been such a thorn in Elon Musk’s side that he’s now blocked the college student from following him on social media.

Sweeney, who is studying information technology at the University of Central Florida, tracks the location of Musk’s private jet using bots to detect publicly available air traffic data and shares the information on the Twitter account, @ElonJet.

The teen has created 15 Twitter bots to track the private planes of tech billionaires and celebrities including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Drake, but the account tracking Musk’s jet is the most popular with more than 375 000 followers.

jack sweeney
Jack Sweeney started the page, @ElonJet, in 2020. (PHOTO: Twitter/ @JxckSweeney)

His tweets have rubbed Musk the wrong way. The tech entrepreneur offered Sweeney $5 000 (R76 000) last year to remove the account but the teen declined, saying he’d take it down for $50 000 (R755 315).

“Any chance to up that to $50K? It would be great support in college and would possibly allow me to get a car, maybe even a [Tesla] Model 3,” he replied to Musk’s message.

Musk later said he did not feel comfortable paying anything. Sweeney replied that if Musk did not want to pay, he would delete the account in return for an internship at Tesla.

“That was the last thing I said [to Musk],” Sweeney said. “And then he blocked me.”

Another CEO attempted to come to Musk’s rescue. Scott Painter, CEO of car-hire company Autonomy, offered Sweeney a three-year lease for a Tesla Model 3.

The car is worth an eye-watering R1,6 million but Sweeney turned down the offer.

“I want my own car. I don’t want to have to give it back in three years,” Sweeney told The Wall Street Journal.

“If I got an actual Tesla, then I would take it down.”

While the air traffic information Sweeney uses is available to the public, the flight plans are anonymous. The program he’s developed matches transponder frequencies with the flight plans, allowing the planes to be identified.

Musk says Sweeney’s Twitter account is a danger to him and in a tweet to the teen, he wrote: “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase.”

Sweeney was undeterred. “I understand your view, but I hope that you would see my interest because I have been developing this since I was only in high school,” he explained.

“Options other than remuneration, like an internship, would make taking it down a lot easier.”

Musk tried a blocking program to stop Sweeney from tracking the jet but the teen found a way around it.

Musk has since blocked Sweeney from following him on social media.

Sweeney might have antagonised one of the most powerful men in the world, but still his career seems to be taking off.

Private-charter flight company Stratos Jet Charters has since offered him a job.

“Seeing Jack’s interest in private aviation along with his adroit tech capability, I opened the door to him to join our development team,” president and CEO Joel Thomas said.

Sweeney turned down the offer as he already works at UberJets, where he is building a platform to track chartered flights to find cheaper seats for clients.


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