Digital

The High-Tech Aviation Tools Tracking Santa’s Sleigh on Christmas Eve

@SamShankman

Dec 24, 2013 8:30 am

Skift Take

The FAA, NORAD, and Boeing are agencies and companies that few Americans think about or even recognize, but their holiday projects are a clever way to make their usual work relatable to children and names more well-known.

— Samantha Shankman

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 / Google

The introduction page to Google's Santa Flight Tracker. / Google


A plane maker, U.S. aviation authority, and North American defense agency are using their expertise of the skies to spread some Christmas cheer this year.

The tradition started in 1955 when a typo in a Sears ad resulted in children calling the then-Continental Air Defense Command asking for Santa. Instead of turning the children away, the CONAD staff updated the children on the status of Santa’s flight from the North Pole. The annual tradition continued after the organization became the U.S.-Canada North American Aerospace Defense Command and is still continued today.

This year NORAD released a redesigned NORAD Tracks Santa site. The site is available in 8 languages, features game, and provides the number where children can still call to inquiry about Santa’s travels. According to the NORAD website, more than 1,250 Canadian and American uniformed personnel and DOD civilians volunteer their time on December 24th to pull the project off.

NORAD partnered with Google Maps until 2012 when the military organization switched to Bing.

A Sleigh Full of Flight Tracking Tools

Google is now hosting its own Santa Flight Tracker for the second year in a row. The website features games, a countdown to Santa’s takeoff, and a dashboard of Santa’s sleigh that let’s children see where he is and learn about each stop.

Google is also powering the Santa Flight Tracker launched by U.S. plane maker Boeing. The manufacturer usually uses the map to track flights on its new Dreamliner jet, but on Christmas Eve, Boeing will also post live updates on the location of Santa’s sleigh.

The company is encouraging people to share santa sightings using the #Dreamliner hashtag on social media. The announcement appears to be a last-minute effort to counter bad publicity surrounding the Dreamliner. A series of technical issues tarnished the anticipated jet’s arrival throughout 2013.

The last unexpected aviation authority to get in on the Christmas cheer is the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority. Earlier this month, the agency introduced a series of short stories and quiz questions that teach participants about the FAA’s work. The story is about preparing Santa for Christmas Eve by properly launching GPS satellites and an attempt to make the FAA’s Next-Gen initiative approachable.

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