Saturday, December 20, 2008
As Christmas gets closer, the Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Region has put the finishing touches on plans to track and escort Santa Claus when he visits Canada by naming four CF-18 fighter pilots as his official escorts. Major Kirk Soroka and Captain Dan Walters of 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta., and Captain Benoit Bouchard and Captain Matthew Maurice of 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec, will take on the responsibility of welcoming Santa when he arrives in Canada on his annual Christmas Eve journey, and escorting him safely through Canadian airspace.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, www.noradsanta.org, on December 24. All of this information will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese.In coordination with the North Pole, NORAD has been informed that Santa intends to begin his journey at 6 a.m. EST, on Dec. 24. The Canadian Air Defence Sector Operations Centre at 22 Wing in North Bay, Ontario, will alert NORAD when their radars detect Santa approaching North America. Two CF-18 Hornet fighter jets from 3 Wing will welcome Santa as he enters Canadian airspace off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. As Santa flies across Canada from east to west, two CF-18 Hornets from 4 Wing will escort him out of Canadian airspace and turn over escort duties to the Continental U.S. NORAD Region so that he may continue his Yuletide trip.Starting on December 24, children can also receive updates on Santa's Christmas Eve journey by calling the traditional "NORAD Tracks Santa" telephone hotline at 1-877-HI NORAD, or by emailing NORAD. Last year, the NORAD Tracks Santa website received 10,660,838 unique visitors from 212 countries and territories around the world. On Christmas Eve alone, 1,012 "Santa Trackers" answered 94,743 telephone calls and answered 10,326 emails.NORAD is a bi-national United States and Canadian organization, charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America. The year 2008 marks the 50th anniversary of NORAD, which is celebrating a half-century of Canadians and Americans working shoulder-to-shoulder in defence of North America. NORAD performs its mission 365 days-per-year, but on Christmas Eve, NORAD performs an additional mission - tracking Santa around the world.