NORAD started getting everyone excited for Santa Claus's 2011 journey at the start of the month but now it's the big show: The Santa Tracker is showing the jolly bearded man to be at past the Crozet Islands. And the FAA says that its inspection of the "reindeer-powered sleigh known as Santa One" was great, with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood explaining, "The satellite-based technology the elves have installed on Santa One will ensure that Santa stays safe and reaches all of his rooftops on time. As a result of this improved technology, Santa will be able to deliver more presents to more children around the world."
Some more fun facts about Santa One, via the FAA:
Santa One, which will cruise at an altitude of 50,000 feet - far higher than commercial aircraft - will be able to fly faster, more efficient routes from cruising altitude to rooftops.
Special, gumdrop-enhanced avionics installed in Rudolph’s red nose will make it 10 times brighter, allowing the elves to track Santa One even during the type of heavy snowfall expected this Christmas. Elves in an air traffic control tower on the top of the North Pole will keep Santa One safely separated from other aircraft using Candy Cane Satellite Surveillance-Broadcast, an enhancement of the FAA’s satellite-based system called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast.
The faster routes are much better for the environment because the team of nine reindeer will consume fewer carrots this Christmas Eve. In the past, each of the nine reindeer has consumed an average of 24 pounds of carrots per hour during the 10-hour voyage, with Rudolph consuming 28 to 30 pounds. The improved efficiency means reindeer will consume 1,080 fewer pounds of carrots this year. The trickle-down effect is expected to benefit the Easter Bunny.
The expected increase in present delivery has also improved the economy at the North Pole, since more elves are needed to make the gifts. The upward trend in gift-giving has, in turn, driven up hiring by 50 percent.
NORAD, the "bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace and maritime defense of the United States and Canada," also has a Twitter account for Santa Tracking (@NORADSAnta) and a Facebook page... but there are other ways to get in touch:
Santa trackers will begin answering phones and replying to email at 2:00 a.m. MST (4:00 a.m. EST) on December 24 and will continue until 3:00 a.m. MST (5:00 a.m. EST) December 25. Children of all ages can then call the NTS toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723).
The NORAD Tracks Santa program began in 1955 after a phone call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The call was from a local youngster who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a local newspaper advertisement. The commander on duty who answered the phone that night gave the youngster the information requested - the whereabouts of Santa. This began the tradition of tracking Santa, a tradition that was carried on by NORAD when it was formed in 1958.
Here's an AP from earlier today:
And FWIW, Santa is a New Yorker.