Each year before his big flight Santa makes his list and checks it twice! Children strive all year to be on the “nice” list, as should we all! But as pilots we can take a deeper look at the prep work that goes into Santa making his list, we can think of this phase as being very similar to our selecting a destination for a given flight. Typically this means we start with who are we visiting or more importantly to the general aviation pilot, where are we eating!
Next Santa reviews the letters he received during the year and feedback from parents to pick the perfect gift for those on the nice list. This research is the equivalent of proper preflight planning research, gathering all of the applicable information about the destination and route, and also picking a friend to bring along on a given flight. This includes, of course, completing a weight and balance, for Santa it’s all about how many toys he can fit in the magical bag and on his 8-reindeer-powered sleigh, where as for us it is about who and what we can put into our aircraft of choice.
Next, Santa plans his flight, this is a pretty easy parallel as us pilots plan our flights, whether it is with an electronic Flight Bag (EFB) like ForeFlight or the old fashion way with pencil and paper. Santa spends copious time planning his flight perfectly, when you think of the number of stops Santa needs to make in the limited timeframe of one evening, it’s easy to see Santa is a master when it comes to flight planning. His flight planning skills are top notch; maybe he should get into teaching ground school courses during the summer…
Rumor has it there is a special tier of subscription for ForeFlight too, you know about the Basic and Pro software versions, but did you know that for the price of a twinkle in the eye, rosy cheeks and the sound of sleigh bells you can get the special Sleigh Bell edition? The user list is limited to one though, so unfortunately you won’t find the special Sleigh Bell edition on your iPad anytime soon. But you should check the METAR reports for local airports around the Christmas holiday. I really enjoy their updates. Here are a couple from last year:
To make Santa’s flight planning and flight operations all the more impressive, consider all of the factors he faces on each flight. As pilots we review landing and takeoff distances, runway slopes, approach types, weather, etc… Santa spends his evening-long flight making takeoffs and landings from a variety of rooftops in all kinds of conditions from the tropical rain forests to the swirling snow of the North Pole! As pilots we know it is more ideal to land with a headwind on a flat runway. A crosswind and a sloped runway can add difficulty. Not to mention that the rooftop runway may have a side-to-side slope… So you add in crosswinds, with and side-to-side sloped rooftop runways of the world and it makes the fact that Santa has never been late all the more impressive!
I think we can all agree; if we strive to be more like Santa, we’ll all be better pilots and maybe more FBO’s would leave out cookies for us too! I’m not sure if Lycoming engines like carrots though, they may have to save those for Rudolph and the other reindeer.
It was great to see that Secretary Foxx of the US DOT, working in concert with the FAA, approved Santa’s application to operate again this year, video of the press conference can be viewed HERE.
I usually do a mish-mash of items for the Christmas Eve post, and this year I’d like to specifically mention the efforts of Sun Country Airlines. For the 7th time, Sun Country has pulled off an unbelievable Flight to the North Pole effort in concert with the Make-A-Wish Minnesota organization. Check out the video HERE.
Lastly, this is the 60th anniversary of NORAD tracking Santa. Check out their tracker now to see where Santa was last ‘scene’… NORAD began tracking Santa (technically it had a different name at the time) in 1955 when an ad instructing children to call Santa had a misprinted number which rang through to the NORAD-predecessor. The commander of the facility played the part and kept the children callers updated on the location of Santa throughout his 1955 Christmas Eve flight. You can check out the now high-tech 60th anniversary Santa trackers HERE.
Merry Christmas & Happy holidays to all of you ReviewBeforeFlight-ers out there!
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9