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Defcon Researchers Build Tool To Track the Planes of the Rich and Famous

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the you'll-never-catch-me dept.

Privacy 125

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "At the Defcon security conference later this week, two security researchers will release a tool that aims to expose a little-seen list of hidden private aircraft flight plans–the so-called Block Aircraft Registration Request or BARR list, a collection of aircraft whose owners have tried to keep their whereabouts secret. Any private jet owner can request to be taken out of the FAA's public database of flight plans. But Dustin Hoffman and Semon Rezchikov found that private flyers' whereabouts are still broadcast in air-traffic control communications. So they developed a speech-to-text system that pulls out planes' tail numbers from those communications almost in real time, often fast enough to post a plane's destination before it lands. In its proof-of-concept version, the site is focusing on Las Vegas airports, but plans to expand to other cities soon."

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125 comments

Sensational? (2)

gregulator (756993) | about 2 years ago | (#40790531)

What does "rich and famous" have to do with anything?

Because no one gives a shit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790565)

...where your ugly, middle class, not-famous ass is.

Re:Because no one gives a shit... (3, Funny)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | about 2 years ago | (#40790621)

Tell that to Homeland Security and Facebook.

Re:Because no one gives a shit... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 2 years ago | (#40791659)

I really wish, but it's just someone else who's interested in the whereabouts.

Re:Sensational? (5, Insightful)

suprcvic (684521) | about 2 years ago | (#40790619)

Wealth envy. "They are rich and have private planes and can travel with some relative privacy. That's not fair, we should be able to track them so we can eventually harass them."

Re:Sensational? (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about 2 years ago | (#40790657)

I have a question. Why can't commercial airlines sell anonymous plane tickets. Is possibly but unlikely terrorism their only excuse?

Re:Sensational? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790701)

I have a question. Why can't commercial airlines sell anonymous plane tickets. Is possibly but unlikely terrorism their only excuse?

It's to make sure you can't resell your ticket to anyone else.

Re:Sensational? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40791977)

The real question is why they are allowing anonymous private planes. The 'terruist' just need to buy a private plane to do a 9/11 2.0. It would be nice if someone got that conspiracy theory spinning on news networks.

When the 1% lose their hassle-free flight privilege and have to go though TSA-style abuse, maybe then, things will get better. Nothing change unless the privileged and powerful see for themselves why it need to be changed...

Re:Sensational? (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#40793867)

The FAA still has official knowledge of these planes and their destination. Indeed, that's the only reason this trick works. This doesn't aid terrorists in any way. If they load up a small plane with explosives, how will keeping a destination private, except for the FAA, who is the one watching, help them?

Your drooling class warfare is showing and clouding your thinking. Also, how does whether a rich person gets through security any easier have anything to do with keeping their destination secret from everyone but the FAA? It may, if true, be a possible security breach vector, but has nothing to do wih the OP topic.

Re:Sensational? (5, Informative)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 years ago | (#40794961)

The FAA still has official knowledge of these planes and their destination.

The FAA not too long ago realized that they had a lot of bogus data for aircraft registrations. They have now started reregistering [faa.gov] all civil aircraft in an attempt at cleaning up their database.

As for knowing the destinations? No, sorry. Anyone operating VFR under Part 91 (and probably other parts) doesn't need to file a flight plan listing a destination, so the FAA would have no idea where that plane is going. When departing a towered airport, you'll tell the controller which direction you are going so he can plan for routing of traffic in his airspace, but once you leave the airport traffic area you can turn any direction you want. In Class B or C airspace, you don't need to tell the controller your destination, just the route you want to fly to get out of that airspace. (You'd have to tell him your destination if it is in the controlled airspace.) If the controller asks and the destination is outside his control (and you're not getting an IFR clearance) you can tell him any destination you want -- you don't have to go there in reality.

Even with a flight plan on file (and an IFR clearance for IFR), all the pilot has to do is request a different destination while airborne (even as late as on final approach) and he's going somewhere else. Under a VFR flight plan, the pilot doesn't even have to ask, all he has to do is go there, making sure to either amend the plan or cancel it prior to his ETA. (On final at a tower-controlled airport, he'll have to tell the controller his direction of flight, but not destination.)

If they load up a small plane with explosives, how will keeping a destination private, except for the FAA, who is the one watching, help them?

The only reason the FAA would be watching a small aircraft is if they are in positive control airspace (Class A, B, or C, e.g., or Class D around a towered airport), or the small aircraft has asked for it (IFR flight plan or flight following.) You can easily approach many suitable targets without the FAA noticing.

Now, if you are headed towards a location with a TFR (temporary flight restriction), like around Air Force 1 or over large stadiums during sporting events, or headed towards prohibited airspace (over the White House, e.g.) the FAA will take notice and send your information to the Air Force who will come to visit you PDQ. They won' t know who you are, but they don't care who you are, just that you aren't supposed to be there.

Re:Sensational? (1)

colinnwn (677715) | about 2 years ago | (#40792045)

Airlines used to be able to sell anonymous plane tickets. There were no laws against it. Though I don't know that airlines had official published policies. But if you were famous, or could otherwise justify it to the reservation agent, they would book your ticket under a pseudonym (and freqently put comments in the reservation on who you were) so any ticket or gate agent would know to accept your ticket not matching your ID. Now with the new laws and TSA regulations, your full name and birth date and gender (as on your license or passport you will use to board) must be in the reservation. This information is used to automatically clear you against the additional security and no-fly lists.

Re:Sensational? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40792361)

Time was you didn't need ID to fly w/in the borders of the U.S. --- I once flew under a pseudonym even though I bought a military discount ticket and was supposed to show my Military ID at the ticket counter.

Re:Sensational? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40794003)

Maybe they just recognized 'MacGuyver' as a military veteran due to all his time on TV? Not sure why they would've let you through with THAT MUG though. Maybe they'd only heard about him through hearsay and didn't know what he looked like :)

Re:Sensational? (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about 2 years ago | (#40792965)

Why do we even need a no-fly list? I understand a possible no-leaving-the-country list (because they are in the middle of a criminal court case) or a no-getting-in-the-country list (assuming they are not US citizens) but why a no-fly list? This would not require identification for domestic flights.

Re:Sensational? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40793551)

Because the planes hijacked on 9/11 where all domestic flights, that's why.

Re:Sensational? (1)

colinnwn (677715) | about 2 years ago | (#40795269)

We don't need it. It is another authoritarian police state overreaction to 9/11. And another example of how we allowed the terrorists to win.

Re:Sensational? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40794149)

However, if they put their site behind a paywall and required a subscription to access that information, it would no longer be wealth envy but innovative business practices. They should get a patent.

Re:Sensational? (5, Insightful)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | about 2 years ago | (#40790679)

“Getting on an airplane shouldn’t amount to forfeiting your security and privacy to anyone, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection,” adds Hubbard

Because they afford to pay for their privacy whereas we must forfeit our security and privacy when we get on the plane just because we can't buy the plane.

Re:Sensational? (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about 2 years ago | (#40792491)

“Getting on an airplane shouldn’t amount to forfeiting your security and privacy to anyone, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection,” adds Hubbard Because they afford to pay for their privacy whereas we must forfeit our security and privacy when we get on the plane just because we can't buy the plane.

That, and this information is being broadcasted unencrypted over the airwaves for anyone to listen to for miles. This same service could be accomplished with a team of 1-4 people per city listening in on the frequencies with off-the-shelf equipment and looking up the numbers (which is probably already happening in LA, NY, and Las Vegas and other places for the paparazzi). No bullying of ISPs or wireless carriers nor decryption required.

Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790533)

Death to the 1%!

Re:Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs (1, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#40790587)

people should be smart enough to understand that "being in the 1%" is not only a money calculation and has an attitudinal component. There are plenty of people who fit the financial definition that don't fit the attitudinal definition, like Stephen King for example.

Re:Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs (5, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 2 years ago | (#40791337)

They should also be smart enough to realize that if you are posting from an internet connection anywhere in the western world, you are very likely the top 5-10% compared with the rest of the world. It seems a bit hypocritical for people to complain about the 1%'s wealth, and then complain when they outsource-- effectively, the 10% are complaining that the 90% are getting their jobs, and being lifted out of abject poverty.

If Im wrong here, please let me know, but it seems to me that follks in India, China, Africa could just as easily complain about the greedy 10% (us) who refuse to let any jobs come overseas without raising a huge fuss.

Re:Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40791593)

Here: http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/04/news/economy/world_richest/index.htm
You only need to make $34,000 to be in the 1%.

Re:Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40792143)

First, 'the 1%' is a shorthand for 'the very small percentage of the population that is hoarding an obscene amount of money'. Second, it was derived from the USA statistic. Indeed if you compare yourself to the poor brat in Bangladesh you will always turn up better, but comparing ourselves to the worst is not the best way to self improvement. Doing so is only a way to maintain status quo, or in that case, ensuring that no one challenge your dominant position. In conclusion, you are either a rich fuck, or an idiot that think he will become rich one day. Troll or fool.

Re:Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40792355)

I forgot... 'troll or fool'? Statistically you have 99% chance to be fool. Have a nice day. :)

Re:Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40793967)

In conclusion, you are either a rich fuck, or an idiot that think he will become rich one day. Troll or fool.

This is an interesting point. It seems that many more people support policies that benefit the rich than ought to based on income distribution. "Ditto on that Rush! I'm on welfare, but I agree an additional tax on people making $250,000 or more is unfair."

I've wondered before if this phenomena is due to be people believing they will someday be rich, so it's exciting to see someone make the same statement. Does anyone know of any research on this?

Re:Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs (4, Insightful)

m.ducharme (1082683) | about 2 years ago | (#40792235)

Well no, actually, I think what bothers people is that the 1% (or really the 0.1%, or maybe the 0.01%) are outsourcing the jobs to poorer people and keeping all the profit generated by such a move for themselves. Personally, I would love to see wages rise in the poorest countries (and worker benefits, employee safety, etc rise with wages), and I would even condone a certain drop in my lifestyle and that of the average Westerner to make that happen, but the people who actually make the outsourcing decisions (and the very rich people who pay them) are not at all interested in making the average Chinese or Indian wealthier. They're only interested in enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else.

It's open to all of us to complain about this (and yes, that includes those people in the very highest income categories, like Stephen King or Warren Buffett), because to varying degrees we all suffer negative consequences because of it. Just because the poorest people have more to complain about, doesn't mean that the rest of us should stop complaining when a tiny minority takes our earned wealth away from us. In fact, if as the top 5% we have more power and can leverage more effective methods than the lower 95% of people, then don't we have an obligation to stand up and complain, and if that doesn't work, march, if we can? For ourselves, but also for those making far less than us?

Re:Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs (1, Insightful)

BeanThere (28381) | about 2 years ago | (#40792209)

Almost there, but not quite. The real distinction that should bother everyone is not 99% vs 1%, and it's not even really "non-attitudinal vs "attitudinal" (though you're hinting in the right direction) - rather, it's moral vs immoral. The reason it doesn't bother people as much that Stephen King is rich, vs say some crooked banking exec, is that Stephen King probably made most or all of his money honestly and through hard work (and not through financial fraud and/or kleptocratic "bailouts"). But morality is not really directly about class or wealth - there are moral and immoral people at all wealth levels - it's not "class warfare" we should be fighting (e.g. "the rich" or even "the powerful"), but rather "morality warfare" by society's moral class and against its immoral class.

In fact, if you really think about it, it's society's immoral, powerful members that stand to benefit from confusing people into thinking it's the "99%" vs the "1%" .. because as long as you're fighting the wrong thing, they can "divide and rule/steal".

Re:Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40795569)

Ill gladly admit to being immoral (i.e 'rational'), and Ill fight you any time you want. Your morality is the greatest weapon I have against you. Moron.

Re:Triangulate the signal and use it to guide SAMs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40795687)

that's stoopid

Dustin Hoffman???? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790547)

Did he have Tom Cruise do all the hard stuff?

Streisand is mad (3, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#40790557)

and she sues...

Why (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790577)

What would the application for this be outside of stalking someone?

Re:Why (5, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#40790799)

Tracking executives, venture capitalists and other key individuals to try to glean some information from their comings and goings. Its one way of trying to figure out who might be selling to or buying from whom, where a company might be attempting to expand, etc. Perhaps Microsoft tracks venture capitalists focused on FSF projects and makes attempts to disrupt their activities. There are many little pieces of information out there that people will gather to gain some sort of advantage. In Dustin Hoffman's case, the paparazzi might want to show up on the location of his next movie project.

That's one reason that businesses prefer moving operations overseas where privacy is protected. Do business in China and make sure one of your partners is a high ranking member of the army. Now, if anyone tries to spy on your operations, they'll just be executed.

Re:Why (1)

geoffball (1195685) | about 2 years ago | (#40791855)

I understand extradition from South America's complicated.

Re:Why (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790811)

The application is getting the law changed, so that being rich isn't a prerequisite to traveling with reasonable anonymity anymore.

Re:Why (3, Insightful)

ottothecow (600101) | about 2 years ago | (#40791199)

I guess I am missing the point here...If anything it is the rich that have less privacy. If you own your own plane (and can reasonably be assumed to be the person using it) then you can be tracked by this method.

If you do anything "below" that, then your information is still hidden from the public. If you fly on an airline you might show up in some ticketing and monitoring databases but those aren't available to the public like tail numbers (and air traffic transmissions) are. Someone might see you in the airport and know what plane you are getting on, but this will apply only to movie stars, not VCs on their way to make a deal. If you charter a plane, then there's no way to tell who is on the plane from its tail numbers and you can probably board it from somewhere outside of the public eye. If you are a fractional owner (like netjets) there is still no real way to tell who is on the plane.

I don't see any real good argument for why we should try to encrypt or eliminate the air traffic control transmissions...that just seems like a bad idea. The issue here isn't really that any individual's whereabouts are being broadcast...the tail numbers are something that is reported and tracked on every flight that goes anywhere...it just so happens that if it is someone's personal jet, you can pretty accurately correlate the jets movements to the person's movements. If you have enough money to buy a private jet, you also have enough money to charter a jet from a pool or just fly first class on those days where you need your movements kept a complete secret.

Re:Why (1)

arisvega (1414195) | about 2 years ago | (#40791501)

What would the application for this be outside of stalking someone?

Nothing. Not even stalking. The fact that an aircraft belonging to someone that is "rich and famous" is going somewhere, does not necessarily mean that this someone is onboard.

Re:Why (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#40791689)

Uh, this is DEFCON. There doesn't need to be an application, other than to show a vulnerability. They are trying to hack, not return a profit.

Re:Why (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 2 years ago | (#40791971)

Nothing. However, it demonstrates how little privacy there actually is once we leave the house. And even that's debatable, these days.

In other words, it's a perfect starting point for the discussion: what kind of privacy do we need to function properly, what kind of laws do we need to preserve that privacy, and what are the trade-offs? And now that the rich-and-famous can't hide either, they'll be part of the discussion. And since no one has the politician's hear like the rich and famous.... we'll get laws protecting the rich and famous. Yeah, but it's still better than the alternative.

Dustin Hoffman? (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | about 2 years ago | (#40790581)

There aren't too many Academy Award winning hackers out there!

Re:Dustin Hoffman? (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#40790631)

Must be a residual effect from playing "Rainman".

Re:Dustin Hoffman? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790643)

He's still the rain man ........

Re:Dustin Hoffman? (1)

ACE209 (1067276) | about 2 years ago | (#40790735)

no - now he's the plane man

Re:Dustin Hoffman? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40794657)

So, wait. I can't tell.

Is this really THE Dustin Hoffman? The actor Dustin Hoffman?

I mean, why not? John Travolta [wikipedia.org] is a certified pilot.

Travolta is a certified private pilot and owns five aircraft, including an ex-Qantas Boeing 707–138 airliner.

If $EVIL_CORP did this, you'd be up in arms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790601)

But as long as the target is "the rich", it's OK?

Wonderful.

Re:If $EVIL_CORP did this, you'd be up in arms (3, Interesting)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about 2 years ago | (#40790751)

Wrong. The airplanes that carry the rest of us around are tracked in the public domain. These guys are tracking airplanes, not people.

Re:If $EVIL_CORP did this, you'd be up in arms (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 2 years ago | (#40791395)

Theyre tracking a private vehicle. How happy would you be about this if it were somehow tailored to track you as you drove your car (or bike)?

Re:If $EVIL_CORP did this, you'd be up in arms (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#40791989)

And the airplanes the rest of us ride are not "private vehicles"?

Re:If $EVIL_CORP did this, you'd be up in arms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40792461)

Theyre tracking a private vehicle. How happy would you be about this if it were somehow tailored to track you as you drove your car (or bike)?

Do i get molested by the TSA when boarding my private auto-mobile? These are apples and oranges.

You see, air-plane are very dangerous. The terrorist can use them to do bad things and they must be carefully monitored. Anyone dodging the TSA is probably a terrorist and in the slight chance they are not, assuming everyone have the same rights are are equal under the laws, having less right then others is wrong. Everyone should be equally molested.</sarcasm>

Riches fuck need to pass though the same hassle as everyone else so the TSA can be reformed. Incommoding one person that can talk to the right peoples will change things. Sure that is still working though corruption and abuse, but at this point i want thing to be done. Reforming politics first is too long, we need to learn to play by their rules.

Re:If $EVIL_CORP did this, you'd be up in arms (1)

dr2chase (653338) | about 2 years ago | (#40792609)

Corporations are people, my friend. Delta's airplanes are private vehicles, too.

Re:If $EVIL_CORP did this, you'd be up in arms (1)

kiwimate (458274) | about 2 years ago | (#40795351)

Wrong. The airplanes that carry the rest of us around are tracked in the public domain. These guys are tracking airplanes, not people.

It's very easy to find out that a particular Learjet with tail letters XYZ belongs to Jay Z. Almost* the entire article is about tracking an airplane which has a one-to-one relationship with a specific famous person.

How easy is it to find that MatalliQaZ is a passenger on UA flight 789 leaving out of PHL at 2:40?

Saying they're tracking airplanes and not people might be technically correct, but it's awfully disingenuous.

* Not quite the whole thing. It does also talk about industrial espionage capabilities (see the WalMart reference).

Dan Hubbard, NBAA Spokesman (0)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40790603)

“Getting on an airplane shouldn’t amount to forfeiting your security and privacy to anyone, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection,” adds Hubbard.

Right - that privilege is reserved for high-school dropouts with 2 weeks of "training."

Speech to text? (5, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#40790627)

Why don't they just decode the location messages from the avionics? There are several web sites already doing that.

Re:Speech to text? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790877)

It will be even easier once ADS-B is mandated; for a few hundred dollars, you can already get a box that can receive and process ADS-B and Mode S data and send it out to the Internet. There's also plenty of free software out there for processing ACARS data. If they had gone through all of the archived (by private individuals) ATC voice recordings for North America and built a space-time model of airspace use (fused with data logs for communications equippage and usage approximations), I would be impressed. What they did instead sounds like high school science fair stuff. And the "rich and famous" bit is pure sensationalist crap.

Re:Speech to text? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790889)

can you link some of these websites?

Re:Speech to text? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790891)

http://newreleease.blogspot.com/
Tracking executives, venture capitalists and other key individuals to try to glean some information from their comings and

Re:Speech to text? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40791209)

Not every plane has to have that technology equipped.

Amazing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790633)

Is there anything Dustin Hoffman can't do?

Gotta see Judge Wapner (2)

Mr Z (6791) | about 2 years ago | (#40790637)

So this Dustin Hoffman guy wants to track all the planes. Track all the planes! What is he, some kind of Rain Man?

STOP THINKING OF THE CHILDREN, PERVERTS! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790703)

This could prevent another 9/11.
/discussion

POTUS (1)

amoeba1911 (978485) | about 2 years ago | (#40790671)

Can this be used to track the location of Air Force One?

Re:POTUS (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#40790959)

Plausible, but I imagine that the strategic intelligence concerns already allow for military craft to use a different air traffic control protocol. On the other hand, I have no actual knowledge of that.

Re:POTUS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40791473)

Plausible, but I imagine that the strategic intelligence concerns already allow for military craft to use a different air traffic control protocol. On the other hand, I have no actual knowledge of that.

Military aircraft use a different frequency range for air traffic control, even when in civilian airspace -- occasionally you'll have tankers, bombers and fighters on civilian VHF, but usually only for a couple of transmissions, the rest are done on the discrete range. LiveATC.com doesn't have access to those communications, so no, Air Force is not going to be tracked by this program.

Re:POTUS (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40792555)

I'd be shocked if it wasn't handled like a military aircraft already.

Re:POTUS (1)

jpapon (1877296) | about 2 years ago | (#40791731)

I'm pretty sure the location of AF1 isn't some big secret... It's not like it's some anonymous little private jet. It's a big ass 747 with the seal of the President on it. Hard to hide. If the President is trying to fly around in secret, they won't use the call sign "Air Force One" for the plane he's on anyways.

Re:POTUS (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | about 2 years ago | (#40792191)

Air Force 1 has a no-fly zone around it. It would be extremely hard to enforce that if they didn't publicly publish AF1's flight plans in advance of a flight.

Re:POTUS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40793477)

The flight plan itself is not published, however flight restrictions are given to pilots through FAA briefings ahead of time for wherever that jet is going to land. Beyond that it's irrelevant to us because ATC will not route you through AF1's no-fly radius, so you just get told to go a certain way. Above 18,000 feet you are under full ATC direction no matter what (at least in the US, not sure of other countries). It's also likely that AF1 communicates on military channels and not civilian air frequencies.

Re:POTUS (1)

mkraft (200694) | about 2 years ago | (#40794385)

Potentially yes. The flight plan of Air Force One is reported to the FAA Air Traffic Control (ATC), but it's unlikely that the plane's tail number will be reported as Air Force One. Technically Air Force One is whatever plane the POTUS is currently riding on.

Note, that air traffic controllers can see ALL flights: public and private (including military). All aircraft flying in public (non-restricted) airspace which don't use visible flight rules (i.e. big planes) must respond with their beacon code when interrogated, including military aircraft and AF1. All this info is available to the ATC. The private info is just stripped out before being made accessible to the public.

Aww yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790685)

these guys are going to have mysterious accidents any day now...

Re:Aww yeah... (1)

amck (34780) | about 2 years ago | (#40792189)

Nope, they'll get well paid jobs doing this for $BIG_CORP or $GOVT.

VFR to non-controlled Airports (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790721)

If you fly VFR, which can be a pain going cross country, you don't *have* to file a flight plan. It is a good idea, but not a requirement by law. Also, uncontrolled airport -- those without towers -- don't require radio communication to use. If you have a radio it is best to make an announcement on the CTAF/Unicom frequency for safety, but it isn't required.

So, if you're that paranoid and secretive, register a plane in an LLC and not your own name then fly VFR from Class E to Class E.

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (5, Interesting)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | about 2 years ago | (#40790933)

Also, uncontrolled airport -- those without towers -- don't require radio communication to use. If you have a radio it is best to make an announcement on the CTAF/Unicom frequency for safety, but it isn't required.

You're right, and knowing this scares the hell out of me.

I skydive, and before people start jumping off the plane, the pilot announces over radio, "jumpers in the air." They generally tend to broadcast announcements of the entire operation status, and the general jump run location. The regulars of the airport obviously know this is going on, but I have seen people land there to refuel while traveling someplace else get all amazed watching the skydivers land.

It's somewhat unnerving to me to know that anyone can just show up without a radio, and without knowing the airport is a dropzone. I assume it can be somewhat hard to visually spot people falling at 120 mph. Obviously there's a lot of empty space up there, so it's not like a collision is likely to happen, but still, it bothers me. Any pilots want to weigh in? Does knowing there are skydivers in an airport bother you? Do you think radio communication should be required in this day and age, or are there good reasons not to have a radio on your plane? Depending of course, on the class of plane. I realize skydivers operate under VFR rules, so if a radio was required, we'd have to strap one on, I guess :)

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | about 2 years ago | (#40790969)

I realize skydivers operate under VFR rules...

Ugh...now I need to hit myself in the head with the same bat I used to hit people who say they're going to use the ATM machine.

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40792313)

Or you could just, you know, get over it. Unless you're friends with the person that you're correcting, you're probably just doing it to feel superior.

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40791273)

All regular sky diving locations are marked on the maps with a little symbol. So only a really poor pilot wouldn't know there might be sky diving in the area. I don't get pilots who don't have any radio. I mean a handheld transceiver cost around $240 or less. add a head seat and your looking around $320. We're talking about battery powered units so even aircraft without an electrical system could use them. But yes pilots tend to be very cheap so there are pilots flying around without any radios.

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40791597)

As a student pilot on my first cross country, I basically overflew an airfield with active skydiving operations without realizing it until after the fact. It was from LVN to LJF, which means I was very near Winsted (10D). I must have missed the skydiving symbol on the chart when planning the leg. The interesting thing is that Winsted has the same CTAF as my destination, so I happened to be monitoring it at the time. I heard a general announcement about skydiving operations at Winsted, and remember thinking, "I wonder where Winsted is." I had never heard of it, and it is common to hear communication from other airports on the same CTAF up to 100 miles away.

I did get a standard briefing, and the briefer didn't mention anything about planned skydiving operations along my route. They have told me about that on other occasions, though. Should Flight Services have been alerted?

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (5, Interesting)

colinnwn (677715) | about 2 years ago | (#40792249)

I took flying lessons in high school, and though it has been a couple years I'm working on my A license at a private airport of the drop zone. I've watched an aircraft fly over the airport while I was in freefall. It is unnerving. But uncontrolled aircraft without radios have as much right to the airspace as divers, who you point out operate as VFR no radio as well. It is a historical artifact of regulation for back when radios were expensive, large, and power hungry, and there were still a significant number of aircraft that didn't even have electrical systems (like Piper Cubs). Personally, I hope this doesn't change. It is a relic of the golden age of aviation, of a simpler time with less regulation. One hopes that pilots who fly without radios are paying attention to their nav charts (which list drop zones). But there are plenty of stupid pilots, just like there are plenty of stupid skydivers.

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | about 2 years ago | (#40794515)

Personally, I hope this doesn't change. It is a relic of the golden age of aviation, of a simpler time with less regulation. One hopes that pilots who fly without radios are paying attention to their nav charts (which list drop zones). But there are plenty of stupid pilots, just like there are plenty of stupid skydivers.

I'm 100% with you. That's why we're supposed to be watching out for these planes ourselves, we have a bigger chance of spotting them than they do of spotting us. It also does make me feel better knowing that radio-less planes are fairly rare, and as you point out, I imagine people flying them would be extra careful. I was curious and wanted to hear a pilot's side. Thanks for that.

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (1)

PintoPiman (648009) | about 2 years ago | (#40792731)

Just about every GA craft has a radio (or, more likely, multiple radios). The ones that don't are generally really old or experimental or otherwise special. It's like asking if it should be a requirement that cars have a third brake light. Almost a ll do, only in special circumstances would one be absent.

That said, radio-less flight is allowed in certain low activity airports (you could never land at LAX without a radio). Navigational charts will show areas where skydiving takes place, so if the pilot in the radio-less craft has a current chart, he SHOULD know that you're there.

As usual in aviation though - it's best for everyone to keep their heads on a swivel and exercise caution, but it's a big sky which makes it hard to hit things by accident

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (2)

flink (18449) | about 2 years ago | (#40793925)

So you are unconcerned with the risks associated with intentionally jumping out of an aircraft thousands of feet above the ground and relying on a piece of fabric to arrest your fall, but you *are* worried about the additional minuscule chance you will get clobbered by a dentist spacing out at the controls of his Cessna? :)

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | about 2 years ago | (#40794255)

So you are unconcerned with the risks associated with intentionally jumping out of an aircraft thousands of feet above the ground and relying on a piece of fabric to arrest your fall, but you *are* worried about the additional minuscule chance you will get clobbered by a dentist spacing out at the controls of his Cessna? :)

Hah. It's a good question. The answer is two-fold. First, as I said, I realize the chances are rather small, and I'm not that worried about it. Second, the risks associated with intentionally jumping out of an aircraft are much smaller than people assume. It's a rather safe sport.

Well, I suppose a more accurate answer is that it's "as dangerous as you make it." There aren't many skydiving deaths (roughly 20-25 a year or so, millions of jumps). Of those deaths, the vast majority of them are people who are very experience, with thousands of jumps, with very highly loaded canopies, doing high performance landings, or something else that ups their risk considerably (like not paying attention to canopy traffic around them. Last year we had a disproportionate amount of deaths due to canopy collisions, as compared to other years). If you've never done it, I highly recommend you do a tandem sometime. I imagine that, statistically, your biggest risk is getting addicted to it and spending money to get your A license. That's what happened to me :)/p>

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40793521)

You have to take it a step further and not broadcast from a transponder. Otherwise FAA radar will be able to track your unique transponder ID, which correlates to N-number, and that data IS sent out as part of their data feeds. FlightAware would have the identified radar track for example, though they are contractually bound to remove data which falls under the do-not-ID list (or just display it without identifying features). Whether they actually delete it is another matter, but they can't show it to you.

Re:VFR to non-controlled Airports (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 2 years ago | (#40795615)

You can't fly VFR above 18000' in the US (class A airspace), and that limitation would substantially increase the operating costs of biz jets.

The DEA has also started searching aircraft that fly VFR between airports on "drug smuggling routes". I know someone who, along with his family, was detained for several hours while they searched his plane.

Charter planes would fix this, since the passenger wouldn't be identified with the N number, but I don't see an easy fix for privately owned aircraft.

Flights from Las Vegas to Area 51 . . . ? (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#40790837)

Now that would be interesting, if they started tracking those . . .

That ought to get the spooks annoyed.

Eat the rich (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790887)

Awesome. This is like revenge for the existence of the modern Republican party. And yes--I'm aware that many of the private planes will be carrying liberal (not a bad word!) Hollywood-types. Your cute responses are very predictable.

Re:Eat the rich (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40791171)

It's revenge for the existence of the modern plutocratic duopoly; Republicans and Democrats alike.

Why do you attack Republicans for the same thing you give Democrats a pass for? Is it just hypocrisy?

Re:Eat the rich (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40795247)

OP here. Notice I said modern. Like most nerds, I'm libertarian and would be Republican decades ago. Then the bat-shit started recently--it really is concentrated on one party.

tracking hypocrisy (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40790939)

The data can be used to track hypocrisy from two powerful groups. First, the rich and powerful, the largest polluters, can be shamed into tightening their CO2 footprints by highlighting their air travel. Second, western governments who publicly espouse human rights can be held to their own standards by making black flights performing illegal prisoner transfers public, as plane spotters have already done.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendition_aircraft

Gonna turn up some dirt (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40791595)

Janet flights, torture taxis and the secret corporate jets that are run in a similar manner (they keep them secret to keep up public appearances).

Re:Gonna turn up some dirt (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40792493)

Hmm modded down. How curious.

you insen5itive Clod! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40791847)

User. 'Now that you're ot0ld. It's

But why? (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 2 years ago | (#40791905)

What is the point in doing this? For the challenge - OK. But why then post it all over the internet? Oh, so you can jump up and down and say "Look what I did" on the internet. Just remember a bunch of people are going to be upset about it and try to take away your rights/ability to do this - and that affects the rest of us too.

Re:But why? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#40792309)

What if someone do it not just for the challenge, but for profit, or with criminal intentions, or whatever, and don't publish that? You will be unaware that you (or at least, someone involved in that list) is vulnerable/tracked/etc and could not take measures against it, or at least be aware that could be done.

More, Please (1)

DaKong (150846) | about 2 years ago | (#40792619)

The 1% need to know that the Total Information Awareness they wish to impose on the 99% can be turned around on them. They think they maintain a monopoly on violence and technological know-how, but they really don't anymore, and it's getting worse. When someone with a 3D printer can print out a gun, the monopoly on violence is over. When an average citizen can track the exact whereabouts of a 1%-er, then the 1%'s ability to exercise their heretofore unlimited power is curtailed. It won't be long before a bright light in the 99% figures out that if they can track every single member of the 1% (which is entirely possible with modern information technology), then they can simultaneously bring down every member of the 1%. Please, 1%, continue to rip-off everyone else in the country. Please, continue to think you can get away with murder forever. Your chickens will soon come home to roost.

I hope I live to see that day, but I know at least my children will. DIAF, 1%

the real story here (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 2 years ago | (#40792667)

is not that defcon researchers are building a system to track these planes, but that a completely parallel system for the well-to-do has been engineered expressly to ensure the secrecy of their travel.

im not talking about guys like Jimmy Buffet who own a jet though, i mean guys like Pat Robertson who once abused his personal fleet of jets to operate a diamong mine in the congo, and Tom Cruise who invests in and contributes much to the cause of Scientology. When was this list constructed? Arguably recently as had it been a longstanding feature of the FAA we would never have known the executives from american automotive industries traveled by private jet to panhandle congress for a bailout.

Re:the real story here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40793599)

It's been around for a while, and it is not a completely parallel system. It's just a list of tail numbers which people who receive FAA data feeds get, and are told not to store radar tracks with identifying bits of information for those planes. Corporations and wealthy people often take advantage of it, so does the military when they want to limit who knows what they're doing. I could list a Cessna 182 just as readily as a jet on it if I had cause to.

It's also worth pointing out that within the past couple years, the FAA has openly discussed removing access to it for non-mil aircraft.

And the auto execs were likely just spotted getting into and out of their jets. It's not hard to figure out where their limos are going when every news outlet within 300 miles is watching you, and a Gulfstream isn't exactly small.

Re:the real story here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40794703)

Well its also good to track down CIA planes that still take terrorist suspects to blacksites for interrogation. Those planes usually take a path where they will not cross a path of any jetliner in a 300 mile radius. Some of these planes touch the US ground and for the sake of redundancy use regular FAA communication channels.

This is 'radio savvy'??? (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about 2 years ago | (#40794257)

This is more like "Make" magazine savvy. Decoding the Mode-S transponder data sent on 1090 MHz [rfdesign.com] would be a hell of a lot cooler, and would get all aircraft within range, not just the ones talking on a particular freq.

Amateurs.

Re:This is 'radio savvy'??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40794359)

Haters gonna hate...

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