Private jets take over small Idaho airport for billionaires’ summer camp

Private jets take over small Idaho airport for billionaires’ summer camp
Private jets take over small Idaho airport for billionaires’ summer camp

For more than four decades, the sleepy ski town has hosted the world’s richest and most powerful people every year just after July 4, who gather to discuss the hottest issues of the day. Sun Valley, for example, was the place where Jeff Bezos agreed to buy the Washington Post and where the seeds were planted for the ABC-Disney merger.

This year at the “Summer Camp for Billionaires” the IsraelHamas War, the 2024 elections and artificial intelligence are certainly on the agenda, along with rounds of golf and guided hikes.

Although an official guest list is not released, the private planes landing at Friedman Memorial Airport in Sun Valley give us a taste of the excitement that lies ahead this time.

On Tuesday morning, the airport was already seeing heavy traffic from posh locales like Aspen, Colorado, and Nantucket, Massachusetts, before the conference began. More than 165 private planes were scheduled to fly through the area throughout the day, according to aircraft tracking website FlightAware.

Some private planes are associated with companies. Nike’s Gulfstream G650 jet, for example, is on FlightAware’s list and was believed to be carrying CEO John Donahoe, a regular visitor to Sun Valley. Brokerage firm Invemed Securities also has a Bombardier Global 5000 private jet scheduled to fly, believed to be carrying Kenneth Langone, its billionaire CEO and one of the biggest Republican donors.

Other notable names on the invite list reportedly include OpenAI’s Sam Altman, Shari Redstone, who just closed a deal to sell Paramount to Skydance, and Disney CEO Bob Iger, who is rumored to be bringing his potential successors.

Some may take a cue from regular Sun Valley visitor and Apple CEO Tim Cook, who now uses charter flights instead of company planes to avoid jet trackers.

Dozens of charter flights to Idaho from companies such as NetJets, Flexjet and Vista are scheduled for the flight – Taylor Swift had tried to fly incognito to the Super Bowl in February with the latter company.

FlightAware does not account for aircraft that use Federal Aviation Administration privacy programs to block their flights from jet-tracking websites that use FAA data. Sun Valley travelers Elon Musk, Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, for example, regularly mask their flights.

However, these programs do not affect public websites such as ADS-B Exchange, which uses third-party flight data and still allows tracking of celebrity planes flying to the conference.

The influx of private jets into Sun Valley can pose a problem for the small airport due to limited parking and crowded skies.

In recent years, the airport has spent months preparing for increased operations to minimize congestion. In 2022, the New York Times reported that the airport had to handle over 300 flights, compared to the usual 40 planes on a normal day.

Then-airport director Chris Pomeroy said the jets sometimes had to circle the airport for over an hour while waiting for a runway to be cleared.

This year, Atlantic Aviation, the airport’s station operator that provides fuel and parking for private aircraft, among other services, has imposed a special event fee due to increased traffic. An airport spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

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