I wrote recently about how busy our skies are and the complexity of the air traffic operation in the UK.

Part of that includes making sure every aircraft, regardless of which airline or destination, receives the same standard of service from us. No one jumps the queue simply because of who they are or where they’re going.

There is however one exception. On 24 December each year, UK airspace plays host to a very special visitor, someone to whom the normal rules of the air do not apply – Santa Claus.

Preparations for the night begin much earlier in the year, when representatives of Santa’s Workshop visit our control centres at Swanwick and Prestwick to discuss and plan the route for Christmas Eve. Delivering presents to millions of children in just a few hours is complex work so the planning has to be meticulous, taking into account the delivery schedule and decreasing weight of the on-board cargo versus the increasing weight of the pilot (all those mince pies soon add up).

Everything is checked twice.

Then come Christmas Eve, NATS controllers are in regular contact with the sleigh as it flies in and out of UK airspace. Such is the complexity of the operation, the easiest way to explain it is to show you so we’ve taken real radar data and real radio transmissions from 24 December last year to create Yuletide 24. We hope you enjoy it.

Yuletide 24 from NATS on Vimeo.

Obviously Santa’s hectic schedule requires us to notify other airspace users in the form of a NOTAM – or Notice To Airmen. Here’s this year’s SANTAM:

SANTAM for 24th December 2014.

And here’s a sample of ATC RT from Christmas Eve last year.

 

And finally, some festive stills from the video…

 

Merry Christmas from everyone at NATS!

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11.12.2014

08:10

Jonathan

I think Santa needs to check the dates of his SANTAM!

11.12.2014

08:14

Robert Slater

Superb Santa blog! Duly shared on Twitter 🙂

11.12.2014

08:50

Chris Lawrence

Love it 🙂

11.12.2014

09:28

Ranjit

I cannot believe NATS assist in what is effectively criminal activity. To facilitate a large scale breaking and entering operation where items are wilfully left and aiding the theft of mince pies, carrots and sherry, let’s not even start on what the fat man’s blood alcohol level must be as he is flying at low level over densely populated areas.

Yes, it’s an attempt at humour!.

11.12.2014

09:53

Sue Smith

Brilliant!!

11.12.2014

10:49

Sarah Stone

Fantastic Santa Blog! Can’t wait to show the children!
Well done NATS

11.12.2014

10:51

Marcin Lekawski

This is grate!

11.12.2014

10:55

Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

Will definitely share and I wonder how long it is before major airlines use this as an excuse for delays and try to get out of paying compensation!! Would not put it past them…. great post thank you.

11.12.2014

12:29

M. Radbon

Superb 🙂

11.12.2014

12:37

Ann Morgan

Love this!

11.12.2014

13:32

mai-li gammage

Brilliant!!

11.12.2014

14:22

Elf

NATS ATC keeps Santa safe every year 🙂

11.12.2014

14:28

Dave Marshall

Love it, will go viral! Good work!

11.12.2014

14:49

Tommy

It would be grate if it were not for all the disappointed children

11.12.2014

14:59

Sam

My son is going to be very disappointed when his present from Santa doesn’t arrive until Christmas Day night!

11.12.2014

16:16

Zac

You guys are fantastic….

11.12.2014

16:25

Liz

Mr Claus must be one of your most difficult clients to manage. Well done all you NATS folks – splendid job!!

11.12.2014

19:16

julie

Presumably NATS hands over to NORAD when Santa 1 exits British airspace?

11.12.2014

20:39

Jane

ATC is all very well, but when does he clear customs??

11.12.2014

21:03

SAC

Awesome! Well done!!! A+

11.12.2014

23:07

Rita Cobb

Wonderful!

Happy Christmas to you all.

11.12.2014

23:48

Lucy

Brilliant. Can’t wait to show my children! NORAD will be jealous of the detail over the UK. Do we share our data?

12.12.2014

00:12

nikki

Love seeing people with true Christmas spirit. Keep it up. My grand daughter will adore this.

12.12.2014

12:18

Mo

It would be nice to have subtitles for not native speakers)

12.12.2014

14:19

Antony Gabb

Nice to see that those we rely on for doing an extremely responsible job also are human with a brilliant sense of humour. Can you excel this next year!!!

12.12.2014

16:09

egkk@hotmail.co.uk

Well done guys – brilliant!

12.12.2014

16:10

egkk@hotmail.co.uk

Well done guys – absolutely brilliant!

14.12.2014

05:33

Green Len

Sky Sleighs Airlines
By Len Green

Be off with your orbiting rockets,
Space shuttle or chopper or jet,
Here’s Dasher and Dancer,
And Comet and Prancer,
And Vixen and Blitzen – all set.
With Cupid and Donna – that’s “SKY SLEIGHS”
Plus Rudolph for luck I suppose,
He’ll guide their safe passage through Heavenly Highways,
With light from his shiny red nose.

They’ll fly across Poland,
Japan, over China,
High mountain and lowland,
Beyond Asia Minor,
Cross oceans and isthmus,
Adjust their regalia,
To spend a nice Christmas,
Down South in Australia.

Jumbos can’t compete with a reindeer,
Airfreighting toys from the North Pole,
You don’t require headroom,
From chimney to bedroom,
Providing they’ve cleaned out the coal.
Reindeer have no cabin attendant,
Or Pilot so proud and God-like,
They aren’t what you’d call independent,
And reindeer are never on strike.

Bid welcome to Santa,
As he draws alongside,
With casual banter,
Concerning the Yuletide,
While sipping hot toddy,
And resting his crew deer,
We wish everybody,
HO, HO HAPPY NEW YEAR.

14.12.2014

08:58

John

Sneaky change of dates on the NOTAM so it now reads somewhat less embarrassingly than the original version, dated Christmas Day night instead of Christmas Eve!

14.12.2014

20:37

Tina

Good for NATS. Thank you from all kids. But what great fun to do 🙂

16.12.2014

15:26

Sam

NATS has NOTHING to do with the Santa’s Flight operation. Santa’s flight preparation is controlled and owned by ” NORAD ” and the United States Northern Command Public Affairs Office at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

20.12.2014

17:31

Liz

Love it…..can’t wait to see Santa again. Please keep him safe!

22.12.2014

13:17

Claire

brilliant – thanks for helping Santa x

24.12.2014

17:31

alcockell

I note SANTA1 is under Special VFR through the Mondon TMA, I see…


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