THUNDER BAY – Where is Santa Claus? For millions of young children around the world, headed to be filled with hope and excitement that soon their home will be visited by that jolly old elf, there is information for parents and children alike as to Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve.
Once again Santa Tracking is in effect courtesy of Norad. So over the past year, as Santa has made his list and checked it twice, Norad has worked to ensure Santa a safe trip.
It all started because of a misprint in a newspaper ad. That early mistake has grown for over half a century into a Christmas Eve tradition. For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight across the globe.
The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.” The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and the tradition was born.
In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa.
The process has taken on the latest technology online. Starting in 2009, children and their parents can use Google Earth to track the global journey of the jolly old elf and his reindeer sleigh as they make their way around the world.
The Canadian NORAD Region has finalized plans to track and escort Santa Claus during his visits to Canada with the selection of four CF-18 fighter pilots who will act as Santa’s official escorts.
First to welcome Santa will be pilots Captains Gregory Myers and Aaron Dhillon of 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron who will launch from 3 Wing Bagotville, Que., as the sleigh approaches Canadian airspace. Taking over escort duties as Santa makes his way into Western Canada will be the Commanding Officer of 410 Tactical Fighter Squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Hamilton and his wingman for this mission will be Captain Corey Mask of 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta.
The Canadian Air Defence Sector Operations Centre at 22 Wing in North Bay, Ont., will alert NORAD when their radar and satellite systems detect Santa approaching North America. The two CF-18 Hornet fighter jets from 3 Wing will welcome Santa off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, then handover their duties as he nears western Canada to the two CF-18 Hornets from 4 Wing who will escort him ensure for the remainder of his Christmas voyage.
Special NORAD ‘SantaCams’, positioned around the world, will take photos and video of Santa and his sleigh as he journeys around the world. The ‘SantaCams’ instantly download the photo and video imagery so that it may be viewed by children worldwide on the NORAD Tracks Santa website on December 24.
Starting at midnight MST on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa as he makes all the preparations for his flight. Then, at 4 a.m. MST (6 a.m. EST), trackers worldwide can talk to a live phone operator to inquire about Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email. NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will also stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations worldwide. Last year on Christmas Eve alone, NORAD “Santa Trackers” answered thousands of telephone calls and emails over a 25-hour period.
NORAD is a bi-national United States and Canadian organization, charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America. NORAD performs its mission 365 days per year, but on Christmas Eve, NORAD performs an additional mission – tracking Santa around the world.
On Christmas Eve, you can stop by NetNewsledger.com to keep track of Santa’s journey, and make sure that your children or grandchildren are safely in bed before Santa’s arrival.