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Dec 17, 2009 9:38 PM by Matt Stafford

Santa gearing up for the big night

"As you (Santa Claus) enter the North American A.O. we're looking for a east to west standard emission flow with a north/south weave tactic," says Jim Collins, a fighter pilot based at NORAD and he briefed Santa on his yearly flight.

It sounds like some complex stuff, but it needs to be if you plan on visiting the home of every nice kid in the world in one night. For the last fifty-one years Santa has relied on NORAD, or North American Aerospace Defence Command, for his flight plan, tackling any problems that come up.

"If he gets stuck in a storm they can help him get through it," explains Olivia Martin-Wirta, a kid who came to help Santa with the planning.

Experts cleared the path for the big guy, and in an interesting way for those helping out.

"I didn't know that they had cameras to help him and I didn't know they spoke to him," Martin-Wirta says. "I thought they just helped him through it."

"We have satellites and we have radars, we've got fighter jets, we can look all around the world for our normal job," explains Desmond James, a public affairs officer with the Canadian Air Force stationed at NORAD "We just kind of expand that a little bit on the 24th and pick up this great big red dot flying around the world with our satellites."

It was an important task for Thursday's crew, and for the helpers there is no room to make mistakes

"If you're awake he probably would just skip your house and go to the next one," Martin-Wirta says.

That importance is shown to people at NORAD from around the world.

"That's really why we do this stuff," James says. "You feel very fortunate to be a part of something like this."

As for Santa, he's fortunate for the help.

You can follow along as NORAD tracks Santa... Click here.

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