The teen who annoyed Elon Musk is now tracking Russian Oligarchs’ private jets

Aircraft · 4 min read · Mar 07, 2022
jet tracking

Jack Sweeney is a 19-year-old first-year IT student at the University of Central Florida who would like to land a job as a software engineer in the aviation industry, and he is already pitching his skills in good fashion.

He started showing how good his IT skills were by creating an algorithm linked to a Twitter account to track famous entrepreneur and business magnate Elon Musk, better known as the CEO for Tesla Inc and SpaceX.

After Russia started the invasion of Ukrainian territory, Sweeney decided it was time to start tracking other jets, focusing on those who belong to Russian Oligarchs.

The jet tracking algorithm

The algorithm would track Musk’s private jet by exploiting the information of aircraft possession and flight data that is available to the public and then report the whereabouts through the Twitter account.

Now, the same principle is being applied in his new Twitter account @RUOligarchJets to track some 30 private jets belonging to Russian billionaires who are better known as the Russian Oligarchs. He has been using a list of private aircraft that was first tracked by Radar Spots, a blog that also posted a detailed guide on how to track the flights and understand the aircraft record data.

The information reported includes take-off and landing times with maps of the locations of these operations, and even groundspeed, barometric altitude, geometric altitude, and other accurate pieces of data. This is possible because the algorithm is leveraging accurate data sourced from ADS-B coverage.

ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, a technology that helped aviation evolve from radars to satellites for aircraft location. You can learn more about this technology in our beginner’s guide to Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast.

Who is Sweeney tracking?

While this young but skillful IT student started to track the most prominent billionaires from Russia, including the helicopters and private jets of Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club, Alexander Abramov, a billionaire in the steel industry, and the richest person of Russia, Vladimir Potanin, he has been updating the list.

Sweeney mentioned some days ago that he was also tracking Vladimir Putin himself, but he issued a clear warning that the accuracy may be affected due to the number of “VIP Russian planes”, and because “ADS-B coverage isn’t great in Russia”.

Most recently, he has updated his followers by stating he is also tracking the jets belonging to Russian diplomats. On March 6th, he posted that he is moving from only tracking jets to also tracking Russian Oligarch’s yachts although he is yet to automate it.

Why is he tracking them?

As it was expected, Jack Sweeney has made the headlines in different media channels with many of them asking him why he decided to create the tracking accounts.

Among his replies, he has mentioned:

  • “I’m sure some people will try to kick some of these oligarchs out of the US or their country as they find out they’re here.”
  • “People want these people tracked down and have their assets tracked down and to take their yachts and jets.”

These statements are definitely a match to the sanctions imposed by the European Union, Canada, and the United States on the Russian elite, those wealthy men who are considered to be close to the Kremlin and who have been described by the word oligarch as the group of people in the government who are really in control and usually have corrupt intentions.

What is true is that he is not trying to get some money quickly, and even if he does, he is aiming high enough. When Elon Musk offered him 5,000 US dollars to shut down the account tracking Tesla’s CEO private jet, the young student replied he would do it for $50,000 or a new Tesla Model 3.

Of course, many people consider this a very bold endeavor and one that may put him in deep trouble, as powerful oligarchs like those who he is tracking may consider retaliation for his actions.

However, when asked about it, he stated “I don’t really expect much trouble since I’m here in the US.”

Not any private jet

Something that amazed Sweeney when he started tracking the jets of Russian Oligarchs is that they own a type of aircraft that is not the usual most other billionaires own.

He made this clear when Bloomberg interviewed him by saying “The aircrafts these oligarchs have are absolutely crazy. Their planes are huge compared to other jets”.

This came after he noticed that the richest people from Russia own and travel on aircraft as big as commercial airliners, with one of them being a Boeing 787.

To put this in perspective, based on information provided by Honeywell Aerospace, “Owning and operating a Gulfstream GIV for private business use can cost anywhere between $30 million to $50 million per year, depending on the hangar services and whether one buys a new or used plane”, while Business Insider says that the price tag of a Boeing 787 can go over $200 million.

This is definitely amazing when compared to the most popular private jets in the world, which are generally much smaller, and cheaper models such as:

  • Nextant 400XTi
  • Cessna Citation XLS
  • Embraer Legacy 600
  • Cessna Citation CJ2
  • Embraer Phenom 100

The price for the private jets in the list is usually in the range of 7 to 12 million US dollars, which is much less than the prices mentioned above.

Jack Sweeney in Twitter

Only a few could argue against the fact that Jack Sweeny, aged 19, is already a Twitter celebrity. His personal account has more than 100,000 followers while his Russian Oligarchs tracking account has gained almost 400,000 followers since he created it in February. Yes, less than a month ago.

Of course, becoming a Twitter celebrity may have nothing to do with his intention to become a high-class software engineer in the aviation industry, but by becoming one, he surely has taken long strides towards his final goal since he is showing many people what he can do.

Want to read more like this?

Enter your email and get curated content straight to your inbox!

Thank your for your subscription.

You are already subscribed to this newsletter.

Jet pilot @NASA

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent posts

Surging Aircraft Leasing Market Fuels High Demand for Expert Talents

Aircraft · 1 min read

The global aircraft leasing market, which has been on a steady rise for a number of years, is expected to surge to even greater heights in the coming decade. By 2029 the aircraft leasing market is estimated to reach the value of almost 300 billion USD.

May 29, 2023
pushing back airplane

Preparing for Flight: Pushing Back an Airplane

Aircraft · 7 min read

While pushing back airplane sounds quite straightforward, there are a number of steps involved in the procedure.

Dec 23, 2022
wide-body aircraft

Defining the Wide-Body Aircraft

Aircraft · 6 min read

Wide-body aircraft offer many advantages over their narrow-body counterparts—including increased passenger and cargo capacity, and increased stability during flight—but they come with some disadvantages as well.

Dec 20, 2022

Start learning from the best minds now

  • Check your knowledge with quizzes
  • Pre-recorded certified courses
  • Study on different devices
  • Virtual classes/Live sessions
  • Pre-recorded Aviation management courses
  • Obtain Aeroclass Certificate
Get Started Today