At the Air Safety Institute, we are well known for post-accident “armchair piloting.” There is pontification and speculation on what can be learned– because in each accident is a tragedy and a lesson.
With Santa Claus, however, we’re a little flummoxed. He has a perfect piloting record: no ASRS reports, no violations, and nothing in the NTSB database that we’ve discovered.
His Air Safety Institute transcript did reveal that perhaps his perfect record is largely due to ongoing safety education:
- Public Benefit Flying: Balancing Safety and Compassion (Good to know he’s keeping up on the charity flying aspect of GA.)
- ADS-B for General Aviation (Apparently, he has many of the same questions as we all do about how to equip.)
- Aging Gracefully, Flying Safely (Umm…no comment.)
- IFR Insights: Cockpit Weather (Makes sense. He surely needs SOME sort of weather reporting resource.)
- Know Before You Go: Navigating Today’s Airspace (This may help explain why we can find no violations on him.)
- Runway Safety (He started, but never completed, this one. Guessing not too many runway incursions occur on rooftops.)
- Essential Aerodynamics: Stalls, Spins, and Safety (Looking at the aerodynamics of his sleigh, he must have done this one several times—that thing is a brick, but it’s fast!)
- Weather Wise: Precipitation and Icing (No brainer considering where he departs from. Once he’s south of the equator, he may want to brush up on the Thunderstorms and ATC course. Just our opinion, of course.)
- Aging Aircraft (Should it concern us that he’s viewed this course 117 times?)
- Single-Pilot IFR (We think Mrs. Claus worries about him.)
- Cross-country Crisis Accident Case Study (Though his idea of a “cross-country” is probably a little different than ours.)
- Airframe Icing: Accident Case Study (Apparently he takes this icing thing to heart.)
- Ambushed by Ice: Real Pilot Story (see above)
- Engine Failure at Night: Real Pilot Story (With nine reindeer, the loss of one means the dreaded 8 engine approach must be considered.)
- Numerous online quizzes (Pesky ASI elves keep coming up with new ones!)
Santa is thriving and doing it safely, but would more regulation strangle his operation? He does his homework (how else would he know you wanted a new iPad Mini?), and operates within the legal framework (Part 91) for his operation.
All that said, the upcoming annual flight got us wondering about some of his skills and equipment. All of these are questions, and some obstacles, that face nearly every GA pilot. How does he cope with these? If you’re looking for answers in this blog post, we don’t have any. But if you have any other questions, we encourage you to add to our list:
- Is Santa a “through the fence” operation?
- Is he paying user fees in those other countries where they charge for such things?
- Is the sleigh FIKI certified and does reindeer exhaust serve as an anti-ice system?
- Does eApis apply?
- Would Santa be intercepted for busting a TFR if NORAD is already tracking him?
- Should Santa subscribe to AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services for the medical benefits (as an aging pilot)? He’ll definitely need legal services.
- North Pole takeoffs must be over gross weight, so has he ever been ramp-checked?
- Since Santa only flies once a year, is that enough to maintain proficiency, especially for a long night cross-country? When was his last IPC?
- The sleigh was certified without an electrical system…it’s been around a while. So how is Rudolph’s nose as an anti-collision light powered? Is there a 337 form for the mod?
- How does one calculate fuel reserves when it’s measured in hay bales per hour?
- Has he implemented ADS-B, or is he waiting for manufacturers to lower their prices a bit?
- Could Santa be replaced by a UAS, and would the old guy get the same kick out of flying?
Add to the list in comments below, and the best entry (one per pilot) will win a fabulous prize—decision of the judges is final. (Submission deadline is midnight EST on Sunday, Dec. 23.)
In closing, remember that Santa represents the best in GA flight operations—perfect safety and a professional attitude! This trip could not take place on the airlines—getting all the toy sacks through security alone would take days, the connecting flights would invariably be delayed this time of year (assuming he could even get a seat), and the rental car bill would dwarf the size of the federal deficit! GA is the ultimate time machine for people who want /need time-effective, point-to-point transportation!
Reflect on what GA means to you and on the challenges facing our continued freedom to fly. We hope you will consider a tax-deductible contribution this year to help us keep our skies free and safe, our airports open, and work to help more people join the wonderful ranks of GA pilots.
From the entire AOPA Foundation team, we wish you and yours a happy, safe, and memorable holiday season.