• Billionaires and business moguls are touching down in Sun Valley for the Allen & Co. 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 co-opt the small town — population: 1,783 — for the annual Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference.

Every year for more than four decades, just after the July Fourth 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. For example, Sun Valley is where Jeff Bezos agreed to buy The Washington Post and where the seeds of the ABC-Disney merger were planted.

This year at the "summer camp for billionaires," the Israel-Hamas 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 elbow rubbing to come this time around.

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

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

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, and Disney CEO Bob Iger, who is rumored to be bringing his prospective successors along.

Some may take a page from the book of the 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, Flexjet, and Vista are scheduled to fly in — Taylor Swift used the latter company 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. The Sun Valley-goers Elon Musk, Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg, for example, regularly cloak their flights.

However, these programs do not affect 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 because of 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 with the typical 40 planes on a normal day.

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

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

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2024-07-09T17:02:50Z dg43tfdfdgfd