New technology to map Santa's flight

FLYING HIGH: Santa Claus has been given priority clearance to fly to Gladstone tonight. AAP
FLYING HIGH: Santa Claus has been given priority clearance to fly to Gladstone tonight. AAP

WHEN Santa’s sleigh enters Australian airspace on Christmas Eve, his progress through our skies will be monitored by air traffic controllers using the latest state-of-the-art surveillance equipment.

Although sworn to secrecy, Airservices Australia’s controllers will know exactly where Santa is at any given moment.

His sleigh will be equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) technology which broadcasts his call-sign, position, altitude, velocity and other data.

The accuracy of the information displayed on controllers’ screens will allow them to keep other aircraft well clear of Santa’s flight-path and give him priority as he carries out his special deliveries.

Airservices provides air traffic control services over 11 per cent of the world’s airspace and is one of the first air navigation service providers in the world to adopt ADS-B.

ADS-B project manager Donna Willis said Airservices technical teams had completed the installation of 28 ADS-B ground stations nationwide in 2009.

Once linked by secure communications to existing radar sites they will provide radar-like coverage over continental Australia for the first time ever.

“Our controllers are really looking forward to expanding their use of this new technology,” Ms Willis said.

“It’s a very exciting Christmas present for the aviation industry and a world first.”

Although most pilots will be fast asleep when Santa comes to deliver his presents but there will be some still flying — like passenger jets, air ambulances or police helicopters.

An Air Services Australia spokesperson said air traffic controllers would be able to see the sleigh tonight, but other aircraft would not.

The spokeswoman said controllers would direct aircraft away from its flight path to give Santa special priority clearance.

“Santa’s nine magic reindeer led by Rudolph with his big red nose will be the fastest aircraft in the sky and it’s important that nothing gets in their way,” a statement on the group’s website said.

More details about Santa and the nine magic reindeer’s 2009 flight can be found on Airservices’ special children’s website at

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