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August 18, 2022

Some stupid kid decided it was a good idea to publicly post Elon Musks Plane Location or Activity on a Public Twitter. Why? No one knows. He probably thought it would be cool or funny if he did, but there are some serious repercussions such as personal security that he didn’t consider.

On the other hand, I’m a hacker and tried doing some basic research on how I think he did it and being a Private Pilot myself, I knew where to start. All Airplanes carry something called ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast). ADS-B is a device, which the Towers use to track your plane. They can see your tail #, flight plan (IFR), Speed, Altitude, etc. In the “old” days prior to ADS-B, Airplanes used or actually still use Transponders. I put quotation marks because for the most part, transponders are still being used. Especially when Taking off and Landing. For the near future, they will still be used. Especially if there is some kind of emergency such as Mechanical, Radio, or Hostage issues. I’m not gonna dive deep into what a transponder is really used for but will get back to the ADS-B device. The beauty of the ADS-B device is that its GPS and Satellite driven and the data is all open to the public. I don’t know why. In fact, there is no monthly fee to use the ADS-B. There are a few websites out there that provide ADS-B Data Live and most common one is, https://www.flightaware.com/

With FlightAware, you can track any airplane that’s flying. Example… This is one of Harrison Fords Airplanes HERE (Notice how Harrison Ford requested Flight Aware data to not be seen publicly. He asked FlightAware to keep his data private). This is why I’m showing his plane only. Didn’t want to show other private plane data.

The way Jack Sweeney tracked Elon Mosks Plane was rather easy. He found Elon Musks Plane Tail number and did the following:

  • Registered for FlightAware API services
  • Wrote a code to track Elon Musks Plane. Or more specifically, wrote a PHP (Possibly) with some JSON script, which looks something like this using FlightAware API:
<?php
$apiKey = "YOUR_API_KEY";
$fxmlUrl = "https://aeroapi.flightaware.com/aeroapi/";

$ident = 'SWA45';
$queryParams = array(
	'max_pages' => 2
);
$url = $fxmlUrl . 'flights/' . $ident . '?' . http_build_query($queryParams);

$ch = curl_init($url);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HTTPHEADER, array('x-apikey: ' . $apiKey));
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, TRUE);

if ($result = curl_exec($ch)) {
	curl_close($ch);
	echo $result;
}
?>
  • After linking FlightAware to his script, he wrote another script, which links to Twitter API’s.

And that’s how he did it. Wasn’t any rocket science.

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