Why does the Hungarian Air Force fly to the Canary Islands, Las Vegas, Dubai, Malta, or Panama?

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Hungary

Organisation: Átlátszó

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 12 Dec 2019

Credit: Katalin Erdélyi, Tamás Bodoky, Attila Bátorfy

Project description:

In 2018 Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán traveled frequently with newly acquired military aircraft and posed proudly next to them. Since then, however, flight route data on two passenger and two luxury jet aircraft purchased by the Hungarian Defense Forces has been hidden from flight tracker websites. Atlatszo managed to obtain all of the four aircraft’s archive routes, revealing that the Defense Forces two Airbus A319s and two Dassault Falcon 7x aircrafts have been flying to places like the Canary Islands, Dubai, Las Vegas, Malta or Panama in the past two years. ​

Impact reached:

This was the second large investigation in a series of articles on how government officials and business elite use private jets, yachts and defence force’s aircrafts for private business purposes after we published the first in September 2018 which won the most prestigious journalism prize in Hungary, the Transparency-Soma Prize for the best investigative report in 2018. The new investigation had larger impact in terms of engagement, impressions, shares, due to the fact that now the Defense Forces’ aircafts were used for shady purposes, and when the article hit the public, the Ministry of Defense classified the information and data of the routes for 30 years. In Hungary is hard to gain nationwide attention with corruption cases, but this series of articles again raised the public’s attention because the stories were about luxury, and even the prime minister Orbán was involved. 

Techniques/technologies used:

We used very simple tools, like Excel, Carto and Flourish. Excel for the analysis, Carto and Flourish for showing the data. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part was connecting the dates of different flights and the movement of the luxury yacht from different datasets. 

What can others learn from this project?

Tracking and monitoring flights and vessels used by high government officials and businessmen allied with the government can reveal secret meetings between them outside Hungary. With the evidence of data and series of photos, drone-footage you can enforce them to react which is quite rare in Hungary. 

Project links: