Five Fun Facts about Flying with Santa

Our house is all a-bustle as we prepare for Christmas.

I sat chuckling silently in my twins’ bedroom last night, on Christmas Eve Eve, as they rather desperately tried to put themselves to sleep. I saw the sugarplums waiting just out of their sight to leap into their dreams, but the boys remained goggle-eyed and awake far past their bedtime, brimming with excitement and nerves. Oh, boys, if you think that’s bad, just wait ’til tonight!

I have one million things yet to do to get ready for this night, but I’m still lulled by the satisfaction of the last one, listening to my boys whisper while the white-noise machine competed for their attention. Oh, I know that at their ripe old age of 5 years I should let them sleep without their mama in the room, but they’re my babies and having a teenager in the house changes everything; I don’t want to miss this swiftly moving time.

Tonight, after we try (again) to not set our church on fire during the Christmas Eve Candlelight service (we’ve been successful so far!) … and after this mama watches her kids by candlelight and tries valiantly not to become a blubbering mess …

… we’ll troop home to make final preparations for Santa’s arrival.

Thanks to our little twins’ preschool friend whom I shall call Em, we’ll sprinkle oats and glitter outside so Santa’s reindeer can find our house. (‘Cause everyone knows that reindeer eat oats, and they poop glitter, and that glitter’s gotta come from somewhere, you guys. Hehehe! Fun tradition, Em!)

We’ll set out a large glass of milk and a whole batch of my mom’s Cinnamon Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies for the big man himself. (He eats a shocking number of our cookies every year; our kids are always amazed.)

And then, because we care about having a genuine, old-fashioned, Norman Rockwell style Christmas, we’ll fire up the laptop and start tracking Santa’s progress around the world via NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) and Google Earth.

Now, my kids have learned a lot from NORAD over the Christmas seasons as we refresh Santa’s status, study our geography, and talk about the science of flight. Did you know, for example, that NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa? They’re kickin’ it with radar, satellites, Santa cams and fighter jets. So they aren’t kidding around!

But my kids have also learned a lot from their Papa, my dad, who was an OV-10 pilot for the United States Marine Corps and a commercial airline pilot for Continental and Alaska Airlines. My dad has flown on many, many Christmas Eve nights, and he agreed to tell us a little bit more about Santa the Aviator and what’s actually going on up there.

For your reading pleasure and the edification of scientifically-minded children everywhere, I present…

Five Fun Facts About Flying with Santa
brought to you by The Old Marine

  1. Although Santa relied for years on older means of navigation, he recently switched to use all GPS waypoint navigation.  Waypoints are identified with five letters, e.g. SANTA, CHMNY, RUDLF, SLEHY, etc.  Unfortunately, several waypoints required changes due to the fact that Santa became distracted by those which were food-related like MILKE and COOKY. (Oddly, though, CAROT provided no difficulty and was allowed to remain the same.) The Five Kids house waypoint is FVKDS. Feel free to use your parents-only hotline to call the North Pole and ask for your five letter waypoint; Santa’s Workshop has permission to release this information.
  2. Air traffic control is not an issue.  Santa flies all profiles above FL600 (that’s 60,000 feet above mean sea level) which is outside of controlled airspace.  Mid-air collisions with other aircraft are avoided during the brief transits between the surface and FL600 by the reindeer’s whiskers (they’re very sensitive) and exceptional sense of smell.  I never worried about hitting a sleigh and 8 tiny reindeer while flying on Christmas Eve.
  3. Santa is exempt from FAR 91.105 (a) (2), the Federal Aviation Administration’s seatbelt requirement.  All that jumping in and out of the sleigh makes wearing a seat belt for every takeoff and landing really ridiculous.
  4. Donner hates wearing his oxygen mask, but does so because he doesn’t like it when all the other reindeer laugh and call him names.
  5. The idea that Rudolph was added to the reindeer flight team because of a “foggy night” is romanticized fiction.  Rudolph was made part of the team when Santa agreed to voluntarily comply with a 1939 CAA (Civic Aeronautics Authority – precursor of the FAA) mandate that all aircraft flying at night display a red “anti-collision” light.  (BTW – Rudolph’s red nose has now been replaced with a white strobe light.  The flashing strobe makes Dasher nauseous which is why he has been moved to the back of the trace and Blitzen has taken his place up front.)

Thanks, Captain Papa! Glad to have you along for the ride.

Merry Christmas, one and all! May your day be merry, bright, and full of magic and mischief,


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