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BEHIND THE SCENES: NORAD Santa Tracking a family affair for mission commander

BayToday's Chris Dawson takes us behind the scenes

In each “Behind the Scenes” segment, Village Media's Scott Sexsmith sits down with one of our local journalists to talk about the story behind the story.

These interviews are designed to help you better understand how our community-based reporters gather the information that lands in your local news feed. You can find more Behind the Scenes from reporter across Ontario here

Today's spotlight is on BayToday.ca's Chris Dawson, whose story 'NORAD Santa Tracking a family affair for mission commander' was published on Dec. 11.

Here is the original story if you need to catch up:‚Äč

The Voodoo Flight crew in the Sgt. David L. Pitcher Building at CFB North Bay is preparing for arguably the most important mission of the year.  

The 21 Aerospace Control and Warning Squadron based here in North Bay, is training for December 24, when they will play a significant role in assisting and escorting Santa Claus across Canadian airspace.  

Canadian and American members of NORAD have been tracking Santa’s Journey for the past 68 years from various locations in both countries.

For Capt, Adam Murray, mission crew commander, this mission is a family affair.  As a child, Murray says his father was a fighter pilot who worked the NORAD mission.  

"When I was growing up at 8 or 9 years old, we used to sit around and watch the NORAD Tracks Santa with my dad if he was home or perhaps he was on duty that night so he could not be there with us because he was hoping to guide Santa Claus across Canada. So it is very special for me as a second generation to continue on the mission to see it from a new perspective here at 22 Wing behind the scenes with the controllers and surveillance folks," explained Murray. 

Murray says his crew is excited for the opportunity to work on Christmas Eve. 

This year, the NORAD techs on duty will be tasked to locate and track Santa on December 24 using radars, satellites, and infrared sensors. Once Santa and his reindeer are located within Canadian airspace, sources close to NORAD say Santa will be escorted by RCAF CF-18 Hornet aircraft from both 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec and 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta.

Murray insists one of the big challenges for the crews is that Santa never files a flight plan for his incredible journey. 

"For us, it is just like any other day, with a little bit more Christmas magic involved," explained Murray.  

"We are training every day to defend the air sovereignty of Canada and because Santa Claus does not typically file a flight plan we usually pick him up as an unknown track and he comes in from the east or the north depending on what his flight path is for that year. We use our surveillance folks to try to track him and figure out who it is and if we cannot figure out who it is we will scramble our jets. So for us the training happens 364 days a year prepping for that 365th day which is Christmas Eve so we can do the mission." 

However, as the tradition goes, those young and old interested in following Santa's journey can follow along at www.noradsanta.org or they can call on Christmas Eve at (877) 446-6723.