COLUMBUS – A bi-national effort to keep Santa Claus on course on his annual Christmas Eve flight continues today for its 60th year.
According to Lt. Marco Chouinard with the NORAD Tracks Santa Team, the program began in 1955 in Colorado, when a misprint in a newspaper advertisement directed kids trying to call Santa to a number at the Continental Air Defense Command.
“The phone started ringing over there, and Col. Harry Shoup was on call that night,” said Chouinard. “So, they started answering the calls and then he indicated to all his operators to track Santa on the radars and tell all the kids that were calling where Santa was.”
When the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was created years later, it continued the tradition. Of course, technology has since improved. Today, kids who want to know Santa’s whereabouts can check online at NORADSanta.org. You can also get updates from Facebook, Skype and Onstar; or call NORAD at 1-877-Hi-NORAD.
Chouinard explained Santa begins his voyage in New Zealand, making stops in Asia, Europe and Africa before crossing the Atlantic and visiting homes in the United States. He said they use the latest satellites and radar to keep an eye on the big guy.
“We’ve been tracking Santa with the same technology we keep the skies safe in North America,” Chouinard said. “So, it’s all the same technology, and we’re happy to use that to assist Santa in his big trip.”
He added the Christmas Eve operation would not be possible without the help of over 1,500 Canadian and American military personnel, Department of Defense civilian employees and their families who volunteer their time.