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1090 Global

The 2020 Story of Santa’s Flight on Christmas Day


2020 had been quite the year for Santa. Due to travel restrictions, he was not able to fly his sleigh to his usual tropical destinations. On the bright side, he had all year to prepare the best gifts for everyone across the world and was eager to deliver them on Christmas day.

After two weeks of self-quarantining, it was finally Christmas Eve. Santa woke up and begin preparing for the big day.  First, he did maintenance checks on his sleigh and fed the reindeer an energizing meal to prepare them for flight.  After that, Santa prepared his flight plan and sent it to the air traffic controllers. Santa would be flying at an altitude of 31,000 feet taking off from the North Pole and breaking in South Africa to refuel and stretch his legs.  The ATNS controllers had a lot on their plate separating domestic aircraft, but fortunately, with space-based ADS-B, the controllers are able to anticipate Santa’s arrival inbound from neighboring FIR lines and surveil him in real-time, allowing him to separate safely from the other planes in the sky.  Santa’s plan to break in South Africa should be smooth sailing – safe and efficient!

After a long day of preparation, approval from ATC, well-rested reindeers and a packed sleigh, Santa departed on his journey early in the morning.

As he flew from Canada to Europe, ATC navigated him safely across the ocean at a 15 nautical mile distance from other nearby planes. This new lateral separation minima came as a result of space-based ADS-B being implemented across the North Atlantic, operated by NAV CANADA and NATS.  This new minima allows controllers to give aircraft more desirable flight plans, save fuel and reduce CO2 emissions, all the while, overall safer air travel for all!

Once Santa touched base over Europe, he noticed Rudolph’s nose dimming and it began to flicker on and off. This is a very important flight tool for Santa as it lights his path and alerts neighboring pilots!  European controllers took notice of malfunction alert that came in and called it in to Aireon ALERT operators.

“Hello? This is Aireon ALERT, operated by the Irish Aviation Authority. Can you please tell me the ICAO Aircraft Address or ICAO Flight ID of the aircraft you are calling about?” said the IAA operator. 

“Hi ma’am, this is an air traffic controller from ENAV, the Italian ANSP.  I’ve just noticed Santa’s sleigh XMAS-1225 has a malfunction with a reindeer’s nose! Can you please send me his last known latitude, longitude, altitude, and time so I can prepare for an emergency landing for him?”


Because ENAV was registered for Aireon ALERT, the industry’s only free emergency aircraft location service, he was able to coordinate and emergency landing in Italy and recharge Rudolph’s nose.  Santa then continued his flight to South Africa for a restful break where he indulged in milk and cookies and the reindeer snacked on some carrots.  Christmas was saved and Santa was able to remain on schedule and deliver thousands of more gifts to children around the world.  It truly is remarkable what space-based ADS-B can do for air travel, even Santa!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!