- 24 Oct 2022
- Fabrizio Poli
- Aircraft Ownership
Elon Musk and his private jet have been in the press quite a bit lately, partly due to teenager Jack Sweeney tracking his jet’s movements, and because of Elon’s acquisition of Twitter. Fabrizio Poli reviews how Elon Musk became the richest man on the planet...
Elon Musk has a brother, Kimbal, and a sister, Tosca. All three siblings were born in South Africa, but eventually moved with their mother to Canada.
The spark that began Elon’s love for space, technology and flying came from his maternal grandfather, Joshua Haldeman, who was an adventurous American-born Canadian who took his family on record-breaking journeys to Africa and Australia in a single-engine Bellanca.
Elon grew to be a bookworm, devouring lots of sci-fi novels. As a result, by the age of ten, he had developed an interest in computing and video games, teaching himself how to program from his Commodore VIC-20 user manual.
By the time he was twelve, he sold his BASIC-based game Blastar to PC and Office Technology magazine for approximately $500.
After completing degrees in economics and physics, Elon, his brother Kimbal, and Greg Kouri founded Zip2. With $28,000 funding provided by Elon and Kimbal’s mother Errol, the company developed an Internet city guide with maps, directions and ‘yellow pages’ directories, and marketed it to newspapers.
They worked at a small, rented office in Palo Alto, where Elon coded the website every night. Eventually, Zip2 obtained contracts with The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Compaq acquired Zip2 for $307m in cash in February 1999, and Musk received $22m for his 7% share.
From there he began the online payments company, PayPal, which he sold to eBay for $1.5bn. And in 2004, after investing an initial $6.5m in an electric car company called Tesla, Elon became even more involved; taking the company on to become the leading electric car company in the world, worth over $702bn (as of October 26, 2022).
Simultaneously, Elon was involved with the non-profit Mars Society, and since 2001 has been discussing funding plans to place a growth chamber for plants on Mars. This project took him to Moscow, where he tried to buy a refurbished intercontinental ballistic missile to use to send his greenhouse into space.
This eventually evolved into Space X, with Elon now launching manned rockets back and forth to the International Space Station.
8,304 Miles by Private Jet
Recently, Elon explained the reason he bought Twitter was to stop it censoring people and to create a free speech platform. In the spirit of this he has allowed teenager Jack Sweeney to continue tracking his Gulfstream G650ER.
Elon is a very productive individual, and while he is still criticised for the use of his private jet it is important to understand that if he flew commercial most of his business ventures would not be happening.
In his first week in charge of Twitter, Elon Musk has met with civil rights groups and advertisers, while also attending a Space Force event and Heidi Klum’s Halloween bash. His crazy schedule is illustrated by the 8,304 miles his private jet logged in that time, jetting from coast to coast.
In fact, you can see it on Twitter via a bot built by Sweeney, using public data that tracks the flight plans of Musk’s 2015 Gulfstream G650ER. The tracker does not show who was onboard during the flights, but aspects of Musk’s travel were confirmed by his public appearances, interviews and tweets.
“My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk,” Elon tweeted.
Space X Starlink Aviation
Part of Elon Musk’s drive to make the universe a better place for mankind is to offer internet connection worldwide. After coming up with the idea of using a network of satellites, Project Starlink was born.
He is now bringing his Starlink system to private jets, using his Gulfstream G650ER as a guinea pig, and is ready to go. Indeed, SpaceX is advertising Starlink Aviation, promising 350Mbps broadband with unlimited data for each airplane it's installed in.
“Starlink can deliver up to 350Mbps to each plane, enabling all passengers to access streaming-capable Internet at the same time,” the company claims. “With latency as low as 20ms, passengers can engage in activities previously not functional in flight, including video calls, online gaming, virtual private networks and other high data rate activities.”
Starlink says the airplane service will use a “low-profile Aero Terminal” with “an electronically steered phased array antenna, which enables new levels of reliability, redundancy and performance.”
It has a “simplified design” that “enables installations during minimal downtime and combines well with other routine maintenance checks,” according to Starlink. The service hardware also includes two wireless access points.
There's a one-time hardware cost of $150,000, which does not include installation. “The installation can be performed by your current maintenance organization or Starlink can recommend experienced and qualified installers,” Starlink says.
Monthly service fees are $12,500 to $25,000. According to the company, there are “no long-term contracts and all plans include unlimited data. Your hardware is under warranty for as long as you subscribe to the service.” Deliveries will begin in mid-2023.
"Internet in airplanes will feel the same as if you were accessing Internet at home," Elon tweeted. Starlink will have global coverage, with service available in-flight over land and water, and on the ground during taxi, take-off, and landing. As long as the equipment is powered on and the Starlink has an unobstructed view of the sky, connection is possible, the company claims.
As of this writing, Starlink says it is preparing to obtain Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) for the Embraer ERJ-135 and ERJ-145, Gulfstream G450, G550 and G650, Dassault Falcon 2000, and Bombardier Challenger 300, Challenger 350, Global Express, Global 5000, Global 6000, and Global 7500. And the Starlink engineering team will update the list as development begins on additional aircraft.
Elon’s Brother Kimbal’s Success
Having worked with older brother Elon to launch tech companies Zip2 and PayPal, entrepreneur Kimbal pivoted to an industry that would change his life: the food industry.
While Elon stayed in California, Kimbal moved to New York and enrolled into the French Culinary Institute. In April 2004, he opened The Kitchen, a community bistro in Boulder, Colorado. The Kitchen has been named one of ‘America's Top Restaurants’ according to Food & Wine, Zagat’s, Gourmet and Opentable magazines.
In addition to its flagship restaurant in Boulder, The Kitchen has locations in downtown Denver and Chicago.
Kimbal is also the co-Founder and Chairman of Big Green, a non-profit organization that has built hundreds of outdoor classrooms called "Learning Gardens" in schoolyards across America. He’s also the co-Founder and Chairman of Square Roots, an urban farming company in Brooklyn, New York City, growing food in hydroponic, indoor, climate-controlled shipping containers.
Kimbal’s business partner in this venture, Tobias Peggs, explains, “People want food from all over the world. That's not going to change. Instead of shipping food, how about we ship environmental data from one part of the world to the other?”
By collecting data on the best growing conditions, Tobias could hypothetically grow anything at any time of year in a controlled indoor environment and deliver that to a nearby retail store on the day it’s picked. “It looks and smells amazing, which also means all the nutrients are intact,” he says. “That was the idea behind Square Roots.”
Kimbal just recently sold his Bombardier Challenger 300 and now flies in a Gulfstream G600, while Elon will be receiving delivery of his Gulfstream G700 early 2023. Needless to say these two brothers couldn’t be building the businesses they have without the use of the ultimate business tool, the private jet.
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