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.
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:
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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