On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Santa Claus, who was representing the North Pole, signed an Open Skies aviation agreement in Washington, D.C.
Previously, Claus has had to make an annual request for a special flight certificate to make his deliveries to the nation's good girls and boys.
“Santa can now focus on making his list and checking it twice, without the hassle of government paperwork,” Mineta said. “Thanks to this agreement, the only time he needs to worry about red tape is if he wants to use it to wrap presents.”
In previous years, Claus had to make a special trip to the nation's capitol to get an interstate air transportation certificate, which included a sleigh inspection to be sure it had proper safety features and was equipped for snow and other hazards. Under the Open Skies agreement, Claus is free to fly at Christmas.
For kids and parents anxious to know where Claus's cross country flight takes him, an Internet site monitors his progress with the assistance from the same organization that was set up to track missiles - the North American Air Defense Command.
The U.S.-Canadian military organization, also known as NORAD, watches the skies for incoming missiles - and for the past 50 Christmases, the group has watched Santa and his reindeer. NORAD uses radar to track the sleigh, satellites to pinpoint Rudolph's red nose, special digital Santa Cams that get footage of Claus and downloads it to the Internet and even jet fighters to escort Claus across the U.S. To track Santa at home, visit www.noradsanta.org.
According to an estimate from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Santa Claus is expected to arrive in southern Ohio between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Dec. 24, although he traditionally doesn't drop off toys at a house until everyone is asleep.
MARK SHAFFER can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.