FAA Clears Santa's Sleigh for Fuel-Efficient Christmas Eve Take-Off

By Susan Jones | December 23, 2011 | 7:39 AM EST

Santa Claus (Image from FAA Web site)

(CNSNews.com) - Safety inspectors have cleared the reindeer-powered sleigh known as 'Santa One' to fly on Christmas Eve so Santa Claus can deliver presents to children around the world, the FAA announced on Thursday. The approval came after a thorough inspection of the sleigh at the North Pole.

“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,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “As a result of this improved technology, Santa will be able to deliver more presents to more children around the world.”

The FAA said Santa One will cruise at an altitude of 50,000 feet, far higher than commercial aircraft, allowing it to fly faster, more efficient routes.

The faster routes are much better for the environment, the FAA noted, 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 eating 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 FAA news release said.

There's also a jobs angle in the FAA's announcement, which said the expected increase in gift-delivery has improved the economy at the North Pole. The upward trend in gift-giving means more elves are needed to make the gifts, and the FAA said that has boosted hiring in the area by 50 percent.

For Rudolph fans, the FAA announcement mentioned that special, gumdrop-enhanced avionics installed in Rudolph’s red nose will make it 10 times brighter, allowing the elves to track Santa One even in places where heavy snow is falling.  "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 FAA has posted the Santa One story on its Web site for those interested in learning more about NextGen, a new air traffic control system for ordinary aircraft.

There's also a link to track Santa's Christmas Eve voyage.

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