NORTH POLE – The FAA has announced that Santa One, the reindeer-powered sleigh Santa Claus uses to deliver presents to good children around the world, has been cleared for its worldwide Christmas Eve flight. Santa One will be faster, quieter and more efficient this year with the help of NextGen technologies, FAA officials said.
“As a grandfather of nine, I know how excited children are when they wake up on Christmas morning and see presents underneath the tree,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “One of the biggest benefits from NextGen is that it helps Santa deliver those presents with improved safety, accuracy and reliability to children who are good for goodness’ sake.”
Just like other pilots, one of Santa’s greatest logistical challenges is navigating the congested airspace above major cities. The FAA is hard at work simplifying air routes around these busy areas through an effort known as the Metroplex initiative, officials noted. This initiative is based on what the FAA calls Performance-Based Navigation (PBN), a key component of NextGen. PBN will enable Santa to fly Santa One using radar or satellite coverage, or by utilizing Santa One’s on-board flight management system. PBN will allow Santa to fly shorter, more direct routes, reducing flight time and carrot consumption by Rudolph and the other reindeer.
“Our air traffic controllers, inspectors and technicians have been working overtime with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves to make sure his flight plan is in order and Santa One is working properly,” said Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We want to make sure Santa has a safe flight around the world, and that the children receive their presents.”
A special team of Santa’s elves has already outfitted the Santa One sleigh with the sophisticated equipment to take advantage of these new routes while also enabling air traffic controllers — and even Mrs. Claus — to know where he is at all times. This is good news for all children, since the improved efficiency will give Santa more time to deliver presents, FAA officials said.
This year, Santa will fly from a cruising altitude of 50,000 feet down to rooftops using a satellite-based procedure called an Optimized Profile Descent. In the past, Santa had to rely on ground-based procedures to descend slowly from one altitude to the next, much like going down a staircase. The Optimized Profile Descent allows Santa to slide through the air as if riding down the banister, descending smoothly and gracefully without having to throttle back on Rudolph and the other reindeer.
The FAA’s Metroplex initiative will improve the flow of air traffic into and out of large metropolitan areas throughout the country. A metroplex is a region with several airports serving major metropolitan areas where heavy airport activity and environmental constraints combine to hinder the efficient movement of air traffic. Metroplex initiatives are underway or planned in 21 metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Central and South Florida, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Northern California, Southern California and Washington, D.C.
The NextGen program uses cutting-edge technology to create a modern, satellite-based air traffic control system, transforming the national airspace to make it even safer and more efficient for the traveling public, airports and operators, resulting in benefits to the U.S. economy. NextGen initiatives underway in major regions across the country are helping to deliver more on-time flights, reduce fuel burn and ensure that the U.S. has the safest aviation system in the world.
Children and families interested in learning more about how NextGen is helping Santa deliver toys with greater precision and reliability may visit the Santa One Story at FAA.gov/santa. The website features fun and interactive information on the different ways Santa is benefitting from NextGen, educational puzzles, Santa’s approved flight plan and a link to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) website, where NORAD tracks Santa’s Christmas Eve voyage.