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Keeping Santa safe on Christmas Eve

Santa will be getting the VIP experience as he flies over Canada on Christmas Eve. Air force bases across the country are working together to ensure Old St. Nick has a safe flight this holiday. Capt.
Local pilot Capt. Kevin Mittelholtz will be escorting Santa on Christmas Eve.
Local pilot Capt. Kevin Mittelholtz will be escorting Santa on Christmas Eve.

Santa will be getting the VIP experience as he flies over Canada on Christmas Eve.

Air force bases across the country are working together to ensure Old St. Nick has a safe flight this holiday.

Capt. Kevin Mittelholtz, of 4 Wing Cold Lake, is one of the select few with the opportunity to help Santa get from point A to point B.

He said when he heard about the opportunity to volunteer he couldn't resist the chance to help keep the magic of Christmas alive.

Mittelholtz, along with Aviator Gillian Lavoie, will work side-by-side to ensure the night runs smoothly.

Lavoie is in charge of inspecting the plane before Mittelholtz takes off to meet up with the man in red.

“I'm servicing the plane for it to track Santa. I make sure it's fueled and get it ready for take-off, waiting for it to land and making sure it's safe,” she explained.

Mittelholtz will be patiently waiting to hear when it's his turn to escort Santa's sleigh.

“We stick with him for most of western Canada, or at least until he doesn't require our escort services anymore,” he said.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Santa Tracker is an annual mission that has been hosted ongoing for over 62 years.

What started as an advertisement for kids to call Santa Claus, led to the creation of the NORAD Santa Tracker. The phone number provided to children across the country was, instead, the phone for the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Centre (CONAD), now known as NORAD.

Since then, NORAD has been helping little boys and girls track Santa's location on Christmas Eve through an interactive website, phone number, and email.

“There's an operation centre people can call into, 1-877-HI-NORAD,” explained Mittelholtz. “I think the reason this has been going on so long is we get to keep Santa safe as he makes his way through Canadian airspace. He has a busy time frame that he has to work within, and it's great that we get to help facilitate and give people a peace of mind.”

Lavoie agreed it's an honour to be a part of the tradition.

“It has been so popular. There have been so many kids who have shown interest in the program that we have just kept on doing it,” 2nd Lt. Camille Dolphin, 4 Wing communications said.

For more information, or to track Santa on Christmas Eve, visit noradsanta.org, or send an email to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com any time on Dec. 24.