Flight-tracking enthusiasts have created a Twitter account to follow PM’s plane

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to his plane in Ottawa as he departs for a 10-day international trip on June 21.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The Florida man who created a Twitter account that tracks Elon Musk’s jet has teamed up with an Ottawa partner to set up a mechanism that will monitor and publicize the movement of Canadian military planes carrying celebrities such as than the prime minister.

The effort follows a Globe and Mail article about how the military is exploring ways to add a layer of secrecy to the movement of some Canadian Armed Forces flights, including those carrying the Prime Minister and Governor General. .

Jack Sweeney, a student from Florida who uses air traffic data to power his “Elonjet” Twitter account, is working with Ottawa researcher Steffan Watkins to set up the Royal Canadian Air Force’s VIP Tracker, or @RCAF_VIP, which will tweet the movement of military aircraft carrying Canadian VIPs or military personnel.

The Royal Canadian Air Force recently announced that it was studying how it could prevent real-time tracking of military aircraft. One option would be to take steps to ensure that flight tracking websites, which sell their services for a fee, are unable to show the movement of certain Canadian military aircraft.

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The military says no decision has yet been made on how to proceed, but NAV Canada, the not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system, has written to the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States, asking them to block the broadcast of the call signs of many Canadian military aircraft. For-profit flight tracking websites use this data to display the movement of aircraft.

Last fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was criticized for flying to Tofino, British Columbia, with his family on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation instead of appearing at a Aboriginal events to mark the historic occasion. His official itinerary did not disclose plans and indicated he was in Ottawa for private meetings. It was only after flight tracking data showed a Canadian Armed Forces plane heading for Tofino that his office confirmed he was on that flight.

The Canadian military, however, said security concerns were at the heart of its investigation into more safeguards.

Some of the biggest VIPs carried by the military include the Prime Minister, the Governor General and members of the Royal Family. Flights carrying the Prime Minister use the call sign Canforce 01 (CFC 01) and flights carrying the Governor General use the call sign Canforce 3701 (CFC 3701).

Mr. Watkins, an Ottawa-based research consultant who tracks aircraft and ships around the world, is building the tracker with Mr. Sweeney. He said Canadian military efforts to prevent call signs from being broadcast on flight tracking websites could create obstacles for members of the public who are not qualified to monitor aircraft movement. But those who track flights as a hobby or professionally and rely on an independent network of sensors that track aircraft transponders, such as ADS-B Exchange or SkyScanWorld, will see no change.

He and Mr. Sweeney use ADS-B Exchange data for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s VIP Tracker. It will track the flights of the Army’s CC-144 Challengers, its CC-150 Polaris aircraft and King Air aircraft that are leased to the RCAF.

Watkins said the effort is being undertaken in anticipation that Canada will take action to block the display of flights based on their call sign. “It appears the CRA is considering measures that would block these flights from flight tracking websites in an effort to make it harder for the general public to monitor these flights,” he said. “It made sense to set up a Twitter bot to do the work and feed people the information.”

A spokesperson for Canada’s Department of National Defense called the RCAF VIP Tracker “an interesting use of existing and open information” and said the military “always welcomes interest in our activities.”

Daniel Le Bouthillier, media relations manager, said the ARC had not taken any decision on reducing the visibility of VIP flights. “No decision has yet been made by the CRA on this.”

The matter came to light after the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates civil aviation in the United States, discussed a Canadian request to block call signs in a July 14 email to industry stakeholders. interested in the Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed (LADD) program. This program allows aircraft owners to block or limit the broadcast of flight data.

In the letter, FAA analyst William Blacker tells aviation stakeholders that NAV Canada “has requested that several call sign combinations be added to the LADD filter file.”

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