Private jets are taking over a small-town Idaho airport for the annual ‘summer camp for billionaires’

Private jets are taking over a small-town Idaho airport for the annual ‘summer camp for billionaires’
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Private Jets park alongside grazing cows at Friedman Memorial Airport ahead of the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference.
Private jets, seen here in 2021, are taking over the Friedman Memorial Airport ahead of the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference.

  • Billionaires and business moguls are touching down in Sun Valley for the Allen & Company conference.
  • The annual event, known as ‘summer camp for billionaires,’ draws the biggest names in tech and media.
  • Their planes are taking over the local airport, causing heavy traffic and logistical challenges.

The annual cacophony over Sun Valley, Idaho, has officially begun as billionaires and business moguls descend to coopt the small town — population: 1,783 — for the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference.

Every year for more than four decades, just after the July 4th holiday, the sleepy ski town has hosted the richest and most powerful people on Earth, who show up to discuss the hot topics of the day. Sun Valley is where Jeff Bezos agreed to buy the Washington Post, and the seeds of an ABC-Disney merger were planted, for example.

This year at the “summer camp for billionaires,” the Israel-Gaza war, the 2024 election, and artificial intelligence are surely on the agenda, along with rounds of golf and guided hikes.

While an official guest list is not publicized, the private planes touching down at Sun Valley’s Friedman Memorial Airport give us a preview of the shoulder rubbing to come this time around.

Tuesday morning, the airport began experiencing heavy traffic hailing from tony locations like Aspen, Colorado, and Nantucket, Massachusetts, before the conference kickoff. According to the aircraft-tracking website FlightAware, over 165 private planes are scheduled to fly in throughout the day.

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Some private aircraft are associated with companies. Nike’s Gulfstream G650 jet, for example, is on FlightAware’s list and likely carrying regular Sun Valley attendee, CEO John Donahoe. Brokerage firm Invemed Securities has a Bombardier Global 5000 private plane scheduled to fly in, too, likely carrying its billionaire CEO and major Republican donor Kenneth Langone.

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

Some may take a page from the book of regular Sun Valley attendee and Apple CEO Tim Cook, who has taken to chartering flights instead of using corporate planes to avoid jet trackers.

Dozens of Idaho-bound charters from companies like NetJets, FlexJets, and Vista are also scheduled to fly in — the latter company Taylor Swift used to try to fly incognito to February’s Super Bowl.

FlightAware doesn’t include planes using privacy protection programs set up by the Federal Aviation Administration to block their travels from jet-tracking websites that use FAA data. Sun Valley-goers Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg, for example, regularly cloak their flights.

However, these programs do not impact public websites like ADS-B Exchange, which uses third-party flight data and makes tracking celebrity planes flying to the conference still possible.

Sun Valley’s influx of private jets can be a headache for the small airport due to limited parking space and the congested skies.

In years past, the airport spent months preparing for the increased operations to minimize the traffic jams. In 2022, The New York Times reported the airport had to accommodate over 300 flights compared to the typical 40 planes on a normal day.

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At the time, airport director Chris Pomeroy said that jets would sometimes have to circle the airport for over an hour, waiting for a runway to open.

This year, the airport’s fixed-based operator, Atlantic Aviation, which provides things like fuel and parking to private aircraft, has added a special event fee due to the increased airport traffic. A spokesperson for the airport did not respond to a request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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