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North Pole a hub of aviation activity this season

North Pole a hub of aviation activity this season

While winter weather continues to disrupt work, school, and travel in many parts of the country, the busy folks at the North Pole are taking it in stride. Whether it's readying the launch of three navigation satellites for Santa's annual circumnavigation or hosting the arrival of thousands of children via United Airlines Fantasy Flights, December is the month they prepare for all year.

And it looks like they've outdone themselves once again.

On December 3, the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation granted launch licenses for three rockets carrying Santa's private navigation satellites. The satellites --Rudolph 1, 2, and 3-- will launch from the FAA-licensed Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island in Alaska. In orbit, they will form the Evolved Location Flight System (ELFS) constellation and track Santa's location at any given time. A transmitter will send Santa's location to Mrs. Claus at the North Pole Mission Operations Center (NPMOC).

Graphic of elves working on rocket launch

However, Santa needs the help of America's Junior Ground Controllers to launch these satellites. Children are advised to visit the FAA's Santa website to answer quiz questions prior to each launch. Correct answers will help the North Pole team get its satellites off the ground and into orbit. Rudolph 1 launched successfully last Friday, but the elves still need help with Rudolphs 2 and 3, so if you know any children, navigate them over to www.faa.gov/santa to help get Santa safely on his way.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, the North Pole welcomed thousands of kids from United Airlines' annual Fantasy Flight. Each year, in several cities around the U.S., children and their families board northbound flights. Upon arrival, excited kids deplane at an airport gate or hangar where United employees have strung lights, set up Christmas trees, and festively decorated to create a magical North Pole setting.

Photo of excited passengers deplaning at magical North Pole setting
Excited passengers disembarking at North Pole. Photo courtesy United; you can see more here.

Children meet Santa Claus and local celebrities, receive gifts, and play games for a day of fun. Our own Transportation Secretary Foxx was on hand to celebrate with families at Dulles International Airport.

It's the 20th year that United employees have volunteered their time --as well as money for food, fuel, decorations, and gifts-- to give thousands of children facing illness or living in underserved communities a special holiday experience. For many of the kids, it's their first time aboard an airplane. Coupled with the North Pole scene created by volunteer United employees and retirees, it's a memorable day.

And there's more to come--Santa still needs to launch two more satellites, and there's also the beloved NORAD Santa tracker. So, if winter weather has the children in your life snowbound, the North Pole aviation community has plenty of ideas to lift their spirits.

Junior Ground Controller certificate
Your Junior Ground Controller can earn a certificate just like this!

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