Santa Claus - call sign FO10 POLE is coming to town!
It’s Christmas Eve and while you’re probably focused on last minute shopping and wrapping presents, our Airways air traffic controllers, engineers and technicians are preparing for a very, very important visitor – Santa Claus!
Santa’s flight into New Zealand airspace is the most important flight of the year. But, keeping the thousands of people travelling in aircraft to be with their loved ones at Christmas and Santa along with his nine reindeer safe is always our top priority.
View the 3 News story to see how we're keeping Santa safe in our skies this Christmas.
Airways also wants to make sure that Santa gets to all his chimneys efficiently and on time, so that when Kiwis wake up on 25 December – everyone’s presents are under the Christmas tree.
While Santa has free access to New Zealand’s airspace (which is a long standing and historical right), he must be kept separated from all the other aircraft and we must make sure he gets priority landing at aerodromes around the country.
In preparation, our air traffic controllers have designed flight paths that take Santa through the South Pacific and on to the various touch down locations in New Zealand. They tell him where he can go, how fast he can go, and they make sure all other aircraft are kept safely separated from him.
But as there will be many other flights in the air at the same time as Santa, he does have to do as he's told which can be difficult for him with those reindeer just itching to get on with their important job. We must ensure he complies with all civil aviation rules at all times. We help him do that with great efficiency to ensure the minimum of delay as children all over the world are counting on him arriving on time.
So this is what happens. About two hours before Santa leaves the North Pole, he submits a flight plan and we check it, and check it again. Once we know it is safe, we allow him into our airspace. We take over from the Fiji (Nandi) air traffic control guide him through NZ and then down to McMurdo station.
As time has moved on Santa has fitted up to date technology on his sleigh that sends his position to us via satellite until we pick him up on radar as he enters our domestic airspace.
Our controllers also have to approve new cruise altitudes for Santa as the weight of his sleigh changes as he delivers presents. The reindeer also need refueling with carrots.
With all this planning and support from Airways – what could go wrong? It’s simple and Santa is onto a potential issue. He’s called ahead to ask about any potential drones that could be a problem for his sleigh this Christmas. And this is something all Kiwis' can help with. If you have a drone, or know anyone who does please ensure you check out the rules and register on airshare.co.nz and air traffic control will make sure you don’t get in Santa’s way!
Christmas is then a very special day at Airways. Whereas on a normal day it will manage around 3,000 flights, on Christmas Eve it will be looking after around 3,800 on Christmas Day. So while you are tucking in to your roast turkey, give a thought to the more than 200 engineers, technicians, air traffic controllers and flight service staff who are helping Santa to town and keeping our skies safe!
Wishing everyone a very happy and safe Christmas from Airways New Zealand.