Car Lust Classic: Santa Claus' Sleigh
What an amazing vehicle! Used only once a year, this marvelous machine travels at infinite light speeds, delivering a massive quantity of packages unparalleled by any other transport device ever conceived by humankind. It's quite stealthy, too! No actual photos of the sleigh are known to exist--the image here on the right was compiled by an artist from dozens of witnesses' descriptions.
The owner of this airborne transcontinental transport device, a Mr. Santa Claus, registers it at his home at The North Pole. He lives there with his wife, and they tend to a small but talented herd of reindeer; a herd that not only has the ability to propel this craft and its contents through the nighttime sky, but also can achieve quick and safe take-offs and landings. One particular reindeer named "Rudolph" reportedly has a unique ability to brighten the evening skies with an illuminated proboscis. The herd stays in shape all 12 months of the year, as their annual one-night, global circumnavigational mission is quite physically taxing, to say the least.
Nobody has ever visited the Claus complex to report on its immensity, but the story goes that the Employees Living Free (ELFs) work all year long to build and package whatever toys and gifts that can be imagined... and a few more. Usually blueprints already exist for whatever is requested, but some unique items can take extra time.
For a few weeks before Dec. 24 each year, thousands of Santa's "helpers" work feverish hours in retail centers all over the world, relaying gift requests from small children (And sometimes older ones as well) to the complex at The North Pole. The orders are then placed, and the ELFs work long, hard hours to finish the requests in time by Christmas.
After the items are complete (most are in one piece, others may require "some assembly" by adults), they are usually carefully wrapped in bright seasonal papers, bows, and ribbon. A small self-adhesive sticker is attached to tell who the package is To, and who it is From. They are loaded onto the sleigh by the ELFs, then Santa, the reindeer, and the sleigh take off to make their deliveries.
Very little is known about the construction of this vehicle. Some scientists have guesstimated that the sleigh is built primarily of carbon-carbon fiber, with steel reinforcements on the landing skids, structural members, and package-containment compartment, plus titanium hardware attachments for reindeer harnesses and aerial pull equipment. It is painted a unique "North Pole Bright Red" for optimal nighttime visibility, and also so it won't be confused with any other aircraft.
Many people have tried to copy the sleigh, such as this replica pictured at right, for their own ground-based purposes. But the lightweight materials used in the seasonal transport craft have remained a secret in the Claus family for generations. NASA approached Santa Claus for access to these ingredients, but since the North Pole is not within Unites States territory, Mr. Claus was not under any obligation to reveal the compounds. The team up North has kept the actual sleigh's construction materials and assembly processes under wraps, as they have considerable experience doing so.
The flight vehicle also emits a loud audible alert in the form of familiar "sleigh bells." Inside reports say that this sound was chosen both due to its uniqueness and its ability to travel long distances without need of electronic amplification, especially over snow-covered terrain. Since the propulsion system of the sleigh is (relatively) silent, some form of audio warning system was deemed necessary for operational safety purposes.
Upon reaching each delivery location, Mr. Claus positions the sleigh and reindeer on rooftops wherever possible to avoid Federal Aviation Agency Ground Landing Procedures, Requirements, Rules, and Regulations. As private home doors are locked and alarms are set, Santa quietly enters the premises through a discreet open orifice, usually a chimney.
He brings the packages down into the house, sets them around the family Christmas tree, then receives his usual "Item and delivery payment" of milk and cookies from the mantle. Good parents will reward Mr. Claus with homemade chocolate chip cookies, cake, and whole milk, as Santa's diet does not start until Dec. 26. He sleeps most all day on the 25th, as do the ELFs and Mrs. Claus.
In addition to placing under-tree presents, Santa's duties also include filling any stockings left hanging around with family members' and pets' names on them. Sleigh-carried items include candy, small toys, oranges, apples, chewing gum, nuts, and occasionally some cash. Sorry, Lucy, no real estate.
The following morning, usually very early, the entire family will rush to the Christmas tree and be amazed at the accuracy and efficiency of the North Pole operation. The unwrapping of the presents and opening of the stockings usually starts immediately, as well as does Dad's search for his tool kit.
Every year on Dec. 24, NORAD opens special airway parameters for Santa and his sleigh. He is given IFR clearance around all normal air traffic patterns, as he has little time to wait for other aircraft. A collision or near-miss would be a disaster. Other pilots, including commercial, general, and military, are on the lookout for the uniquely-glowing red alert system given off by the leading edge of this flight anomaly.
So, if on Christmas Eve, you see a lone red glow up in the sky moving very quickly, it's probably a jolly old man on a mission of good will. He has a lot of homes to visit in a short time. The best way to help him is to get the kids to bed early and turn the house lights down low so he can get his duties done. Then he can fly on to the next location, and make those deliveries as well.
--That Car Guy (Chuck)