SANTA CLAUS: From An Engineer's
Santa's Pre-Christmas Flight Check
'Twas the Night
SANTA CLAUS: From An Engineer's Perspective
- There are approximately two billion children
(persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not
visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist religions,
this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total,
or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau). At
an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes
to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good
child in each.
- Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work
with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the
earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical).
This works out to 967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for
each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around
1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the
chimney, fill the sStampskings, distribute the remaining presents
under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get
back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next
- Assuming that each of these 108 million stops
is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know
to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our
calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household,
a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or
breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per
second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of
comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe,
moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer
can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.
- The payload of the sleigh adds another
interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more
than a medium sized LEGO set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying
over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land a
conventional reindeer can pull no more then 300 pounds.
- Even granting that "flying" reindeer could pull
ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or
even nine of them. Santa would need 360,000 of them. This
increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh,
another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the
Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch) - 600,000 tons
traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance.
This would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a
spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of
reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintrillion joules of energy per
second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost
instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating
deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team
would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right
about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.
- Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a
result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s in .001
second, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's. A
250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to
the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 lbs of force, instantly
crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob
of pink goo.
- Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.
- ..but Merry Christmas anyway!
Santa's Pre-Christmas Flight Check
Santa Claus, like all pilots, gets regular visits
from the Federal Aviation Administration, and the FAA examiner
arrived last week for the pre-Christmas flight check.
In preparation, Santa had the elves wash the sled
and bathe all the reindeer. Santa got his logbook out and made sure
all his paperwork was in order. He knew they would examine all his
equipment and truly put Santa's flying skills to the test...
The examiner walked slowly around the sled. He
checked the reindeer harnesses, the landing gear, and Rudolf's nose.
He painstakingly reviewed Santa's weight and balance calculations
for sled's enormous payload.
Finally, they were ready for the check ride. Santa
got in and fastened his seatbelt and shoulder harness and checked
the compass. Then the examiner hopped in carrying, to Santa's
surprise, a shotgun.
"What's that for?!?" asked Santa incredulously.
The examiner winked and said, "I'm not supposed to
tell you this ahead of time," as he leaned over to whisper in
Santa's ear, "but you're gonna lose an engine on takeoff."
'Twas the Night -
by Phyllis Moses
Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the
Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ.
The aircraft were fastened to tiedowns with care,
In hopes that come morning, they all would be there.
The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their
While peak gusts from two-zero reached 39 knots.
And I at the fuel desk, now finally caught up,
Had just settled comfortably down on my butt.
When over the radio, there arose such a clatter,
I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter.
A voice clearly heard over static and snow,
Asked for clearance to land at the airport below.
He barked out his transmission so lively and quick,
I could have sworn the call sign he used was "St. Nick."
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Sure that it was only Horizon's late Dash.
Then he called his position, and there could be no
"This is St. Nicholas One," and "I'm turning on final."
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
A Rutan Sleigh and eight Rotax reindeer.
He flew the approach, on glideslopes he came,
As he passed all fixes, he called them by name:
Now Rengo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun!
On Comet! On Cupid!" What pills was he takin'?
Those last couple of fixes left controllers
They called down to the office to give me the news,
The message they left was both urgent and dour:
"When Santa lands, could he please call the tower?"
He landed like silk, with the sled runners
Then I heard "Exit at Charlie," and "Taxi to parking."
So up to the offices the coursers they flew,
With loud airplane noise, and St. Nicholas, too.
He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could
I had run out to him with my best set of chocks.
He was dressed all in fur, which was covered with
And his beard was all blackened from reindeer exhaust.
His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale,
And he smoked on a pipe, but he didn't inhale.
He had a broad face and his armpits were smelly,
And his boots were as black as a cropduster's belly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old fool,
And he kindly informed me that he needed some fuel.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his toes,
Led me to know he was desperate to powder his nose.
I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
And I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk.
He came out of the restroom with a sigh of relief,
And then picked up the phone for a flight service brief.
And I thought, as he silently scribed in his log,
That with Rudolph, he could land in eighth-mile and fog.
Next, he completed his preflight, from the front
to the rear,
Then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell "Clear!"
And laying a finger on his push-talk,
He called up the tower for his clearance and squawk.
Straight out two-zero," the tower called forth,
"And watch for a Cessna straight in from the North."
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he climbed in the
"Happy Christmas to all, I have traffic in sight."