Your private jet is not really private. Airliner and the FAA are trying to change that.

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One of the great advantages of private aviation is already in the name: privacy. But the ability to stay hidden from prying eyes only applies inside the cabin. Social media accounts that broadcast flight models of notable names – including Drake, Taylor Swift, Nancy Pelosi, Kim Kardashian and LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault, as well as several sanctioned Russian oligarchs – garnered millions of followers. international with the Twitter name @ElonJet obtained before Musk himself suspended the account. The spotlight that shines on is equal parts geeky hobby, gawker-level curiosity, and emissions-shaming — and Arnault, at least, eventually had enough of the glare, selling his Bombardier Global 7500 last fall and switched to charter flights with private passenger lists. .

And it’s not just business tycoons, celebrities and politicians who are vulnerable. Anyone who travels on a private jet shares the information transmitted through the plane’s black box. ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) technology broadcasts GPS coordinates, altitude, ground speed, and other data to air traffic controllers and aircraft in close for security reasons—but it also poses potential threats ranging from corporate espionage to threats of violent theft.

“It’s like driving down the highway and having someone pick up your license plate to see who’s in the car and where you’re going,” said Doug Carr, senior vice president of safety, security, sustainability and international affairs at the National Business Aviation Association. (NBAA). “This is not just about the lifestyle of the rich and famous. It’s about basic security and not being able to track people in real time – which, by the way, is illegal elsewhere.”

The issue came into focus a decade ago when the CEO of a restaurant supply company who used airplanes for his business was stalked and stalked by online competitors. Then there were returning wounded military veterans who were confronted by anti-war protesters at their airports. Martha King, who runs the King Schools pilot training academy with her husband John, has been harassed by several unstable outsiders. Once one of them appeared unexpectedly and threatened her. “Privacy seems abstract, but for us it quickly became personal,” says Martha. “Now we are more careful when flying to unfamiliar airports.”

Bombardier Global 7500 underway. bomber

The FAA is trying to help. After ADS-B became mandatory in January 2020, the agency created several programs that allow jet operators to choose not to share tail numbers, thereby helping to hide the identities of -passengers Many private owners have signed up for the Limited Aircraft Display Data (LADD) program, but sources that do not use FAA data are not required to comply with these restrictions and can still publish the information broadcast by jet transponders.

The FAA attempted to fill this gap by providing a way to temporarily speed up the jet’s tail number through the Civil Aviation Organization International’s (PIA) Privacy address program. However, joining this program is much more complicated than signing up for LADD, which requires physical changes to transponders and temporary callsigns – and when it comes to the latter, “you’ll probably need to change that code with routine way,” says senior Heidi Williams. NBAA Director of Air Traffic Services. In addition, the new codes will not be recognized outside US airspace.

As we’ve seen from broader celebrity culture, given enough public interest, trackers find a way — the FAA, for example, can’t stop hobbyists or paparazzi from physically watching jet traffic at a local airport and then make those dick numbers cross. . An FAA spokesman says the agency is expanding PIA for US-registered aircraft to include FAA-managed international airspace, but there is currently no mechanism to hide callsigns because ADS-B systems do not have an on-off switch.

Meanwhile, the NBAA is in talks with trade associations in Canada and the European Union, which account for 40 percent of global commercial aviation activity, to create an international program like PIA. But universal adoption would require “a conversation in all parts of the world about what this program means and how it would interface with air traffic control systems,” Carr says.

All this leaves pilots like John King – whose wife was physically in danger – frustrated, angry and wondering, “Why should we have to give up our privacy when I get on a plane?”


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