Lebanese activists create flight tracker for politicians’ private jets

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Despite Lebanon’s economic collapse, its elite continues to party. This flight tracker lets them know the world is watching.

A group of three Lebanese activists have created an automated service that tracks the private planes of Lebanon’s politicians and economic oligarchs.

The service, operated through the Twitter account Lebanon Private Jetsautomatically tweets whenever a Lebanese person of interest flies, anywhere in the world.

Tweets include aircraft type, ID tag, owner (if available) and flight path.

The narrative was born out of a shared love for aviation and growing anger at the jet-set lifestyle that Lebanon’s business elite have lived throughout the crisis, one of the activists said. The new Arabic on condition of anonymity.

“In modern history, jets have played a major role in every revolution and great political transition – from Ben Ali’s flight to Tunisia to the evacuation during the fall of Saigon. We’re just doing our part to keep track of every movement,” the activist said. .

Lebanon’s financial and economic collapse – dubbed one of the “three” worst economic crises of the past 150 years by the World Bank – has plunged more than two-thirds of the population into poverty.

Rapid hyperinflation has driven up the price of even the most basic products beyond the reach of the majority of Lebanese.

Despite the severity of the financial crisis, the Lebanese elite has not stopped its luxurious lifestyle. Scenes of partying ministers and their children flying around the world enraged audiences mired in poverty.

The three activists were aviation enthusiasts who logged onto online aviation forums after realizing they all lived in Lebanon. They all lost their savings in the Lebanese financial crisis, which began in 2019 and which, as a result, “got pissed off”.

They decided to channel that anger during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, when they also noticed private jets taking off and arriving, despite the airport being closed.

They started recording IDs of incoming jets using commercial flight apps, but became frustrated after the IDs of the number of high profile jets were blocked by these apps.

Activists then used cameras they had with “superzoom lenses” to manually write down the IDs of incoming jets, adding them to a database of jets belonging to Lebanon’s political and business elite. In some cases, these identifiers may be linked to their owners.

Some Lebanese made it easier than others. Fouad Makhzoumi, a Lebanese billionaire and politician, for example, uses the “M-Fuad” identity card, which makes it easier to identify him as the owner of the private jet.

Other planes were harder to identify, with owners using private companies to disguise jet ownership.

In these cases, activists have tried to piece together the information, asking their followers to send them any advice they might have on who might be flying where – and why.

The account was created with the help of Jack Sweeney, a student from Florida, whom Elon Musk offered $5,000 after he created a Twitter bot that tracked the movements of Musk’s private jet.

The efforts of the aviation trackers were in the same vein as Lebanese protesters who “name and humiliate” economic and political elites.

A social media protest account, known as ‘Thawramap’, is collecting information on the whereabouts of Lebanese oligarchs and urging protesters to go there and ‘shame’ them for their role in the crisis current.

Noting that it is not up to them to “judge” who is held responsible, the activist still felt that their efforts were a small victory against what they see as an elite class who live largely off their money.

“We were part of this little upper society that is now…barely able to support itself,” the activist said.

“So we’re still partying with the kids of these politicians and bankers, but we’re invisibly stabbing their families in the back…with a toothpick.”

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