DENVER, Dec 25, 2014:
Santa Claus has embarked on his annual Christmas Eve mission to deliver presents to millions of children after a smooth take-off from his North Pole base, at least according to US military officials who track his reindeer-powered sleigh.
Norad’s Santa-tracking website, www.noradsanta.org, provides real-time animated updates of the worldwide trek.
Last year, the site had 20 million unique visitors, Castro said, adding that volunteers who staff a telephone hotline fielded some 117,000 calls from interested children and others.
The colonel took the child’s Christmas wish list, and assured her that Santa was on schedule. When more calls flooded into the command center, the military added a new task to its air defence mission.
Renamed Norad three years later as a combined Canadian and US agency, the Santa-tracking tradition has continued. It now employs social media sites, andsmart phone apps to spread the word on Santa’s whereabouts.
Castro said Norad coordinates with Santa’s “Elf Launch Staff” to confirm his departure time and general flight plan but after that, “Santa calls the shots,” she said.
While he has made his rounds for generations, Santa has embraced modern technology, Castro said.
“We do know Santa has some sophisticated on-board hardware,” she said, adding that the exact nature of the equipment is classified.
Once he enters North American airspace, Canadian and American air force fighter jets escort St Nick’s sleigh, Castro said, and aviators are thrilled when they see him.
“Santa slows down and waves to the pilots, and they tip their wings in return,” she said.