WASHINGTON — FAA chief Randy Babbitt braved snow, ice and foggy conditions at North Pole International Airport to give Santa Claus and his sleigh a thumbs-up for the jolly old pilot’s traditional round-the-world Christmas Eve mission.
During a 90-minute check ride, Babbitt made sure Santa can properly execute the demanding maneuvers and precision rooftop landings inherent in making toy deliveries. He also checked that the sleigh’s deicing equipment, reindeer propulsion system and communications and navigation systems are working properly. In addition, Babbitt verified Santa has policies in place to guarantee he and his elves will have a proper rest period before the long, all-night mission.
While the elves will have WiFi inflight Internet access, St. Nick stressed he will strictly enforce his longstanding ban on distractions in the cockpit.
“Santa and his crew have always shown extraordinary professionalism in the cockpit,” said Babbitt “I’m certain they’ll pull off the flight without a hitch.”
This year, Santa has several Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) technology improvements at his disposal to make the annual trip safer and more fuel-efficient. For example, North Pole International Airport boasts a new ASDE-X ground surveillance radar system to help St. Nick avoid marauding polar bears and the occasional Grinch. Santa’s sleigh (registration N0EL) boasts all the necessary electronics to use Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP), approaches the FAA has in place to help Santa easily reach children’s homes. The sleigh also has an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) component that pinpoints its position for air traffic controllers and other aircraft throughout the flight.
Mindful of environmental issues, Santa has incorporated several Earth-friendly features this year. Rudolph’s bright red nose and the sleigh’s warning and decorative lights are all powered by energy-saving LEDs.
The public can follow Santa on his Christmas Eve mission here.