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Santa and the elves were all busy, so much to do. The flight planning and flight following elves were flat strap, not only were there new war zones to avoid, volcanoes, RVSM airspace, ADSB airspace and new narrow roof top landing limits to comply with; but the Indian ocean had developed it’s own version of the Bermuda triangle where alien spaceships where thought to be operating. No matter, the planning elves knew their work and would design a flight path to suit.

The tech elves also had their work cut out, new gadgets to fit and test, the paperwork was mounting. The Chief Tech Elf (CTE) had lost his temper a record number of times; very few of the tech elves would climb the steep staircase to his office, lest they were thumped by an outgoing (express) bundle of paperwork followed by a string of language, strong enough to turn the air blue and make a stokers mate blush. One of the real issues causing the chief tech elf to ‘loose it’ was that Santa had been forced into using ‘clerical’ types to do the fixing. The CTE needed proper spanner twisters, the ones with fingers like muscular centipedes and who could actually fix things, alas, middle management elves had ‘let them go’, claiming the new composite sled was imbued with magical, self healing powers.

Santa of course needed to renew his medical and complete his proficiency check. He had spent weeks training the reindeer to stop pedalling when he shouted Bang (check pilots were not authorised to carry shotguns any longer) and reckoned he had the simulated power unit failure problem licked.

He had been on a strict diet, no booze, plenty of green leafy stuff, lots of sleep and exercise (mostly due to chasing recalcitrant reindeer who wanted to frolic in the new snow, rather than play dead)..Anyway, the medical elf fussed and fiddled, a minor anomaly in the blood sugar department was, regrettably going to be an issue. Santa hustled off to the wee wee specialist elf; who declared ‘no problem’, so armed with a new paperwork pile, Santa trudged back the medical elf; eventually after a high blood pressure event a new medical certificate was issued, with pain in the arse proviso’s, but Santa was so glad to be ‘legal’, he was prepared to wear it. New glasses were required, filling out a lengthy, invasive pro-forma had weakened his eyesight and filling in his name, address and ARN 16 times had not assisted his blood pressure. No matter, job done. Check ride next.

By the time the ‘Check elf’ executive transport landed, the sled was gleaming, all the new gizmos worked and even the paperwork was in order. Simulated MTOW was easily reached by simply loading all the shelf ware, required by law, for safety’s sake inboard. From the exec jet a figure emerged “Oh no” groaned Santa, they have sent Cruella de Unspeakable.

Handshakes and pleasantries were exchanged, then it began. In the rush to get everything ‘operational’ Santa had not spent the mandatory three months translating the new rules and very quickly began to make some minor, technical errors during the Q&A. “But, but, that’s highly subjective” huffed Santa when he was corrected; “Oh I know” gushed Cruella, “grand ain’t it” and with a saccharine sweet smile the pen poised over one of the many forms. “Bugger it” thought Santa, “gone; gone for all money”. Then slowly, the pen was raised “Hullo, what’s this then” thought Santa. One of Santa’s best presents was a winning lottery ticket; “I’ll let it go this time” says Cruella, with a wink and a nod at the lottery tickets. Now Santa is nobody’s fool, quietly, he stood up picked up one of the tickets, folded it neatly and put it in his shirt pocket. “Well, if that’s all done, lets go flying”. “No need now” says Cruella, “indeed it would be a shame to put those dahling little reindeer to all that work; I’m sure that this year you can as safely and compliantly conduct your flight as you have for the past countless years”. Santa got Cruella back to the exec transport as fast as he decently could; “Merry Christmas” says he as he felt the lottery ticket slipping quietly from his pocket.

With a big sigh and a sheepish grin, shared with the chief tech elf Santa headed over to hanger; with only a day or so before the off, he had much to do; all of it important before departure. Pity Cruella didn’t check the date on that ticket he mused.

“Ho Ho Ho”.

Christmas eve and beyond.

Rudolph, he of the red nose was miffed: his well rehearsed ‘dying swan’ routine had not been used during the check flight, but he was determined have it appreciated and decided to demonstrate his talent on the very first narrow roof top take off, “teach the fat boy a lesson” he thought as he munched on his pre take off dinner.

The CTE had recovered some cool and was doing his final look around, to be sure, to be sure; one of the new gizmos fitted had not been cooperative, but it tested OK, so with the hour fast approaching, the CTE decided that if it played up the MEL would cover the Santa arse; and, all would be well.  The bloody thing was only an additional back up, of a redundancy duplicated system; anyway his toes were cold and tempus was fugiting.

Santa rolled up, the planning elves had done him proud, and the new ‘Pad’ (present from Mrs S) was all loaded and ready to rock, even had spare batteries and a plug in for the cigar lighter. Santa was a veteran though and his trusty, dusty, battered flight bag, flask and snack box were amongst the last items to be loaded, quick peck for Mum, nod of thanks to the CTE and with little fanfare, the sled accelerated into the night and slipped quietly away; shaping a course for the second star on the right and straight on until morning

Well, the planning elves had done a bang up job; the ATCO went out of their way to assist, the winds cooperated, the new rapid toy delivery system (RTDS) worked like a dream and by mornings first light (yesterday) Santa was setting up for the long haul over the Pacific and breakfast. He always enjoyed watching the suns first rays lighting the tops of the great mountains parked on the island with the long white clouds, breakfast over and a second coffee poured, the pipe was lit, feet up on the dashboard, a couple of hours to while away before the RTDS would do it’s magic work again. And so it was, the reindeers nose bags were on time, the RTDS did it’s thing and after a pit stop, Santa et al headed West for the final leg to ‘Dizzyland’. It had been christened that by the early Santas because, there being so very little in the middle, and lots around the edges, the reindeer got dizzy going around in a big long, boring circle.

“Morning Brisbane – Santa 1 here, ready to commence RTDS run”.

“Santa 1 is that? – we have no details in the system, you must have made an error; hold at ‘PARKU’ until advised”.

Well, long story short, eventually the ‘details’ were found and the sled left the pattern, but it seemed that the Santa configuration of ADSB and RVSM gear was not unique enough and Santa could either climb half way to heaven; or grub along in the ice and clouds; or, bugger off somewhere else.  Divert; or declare an emergency. When the CVR tape was played later, for the amusement of the elves at the post delivery party; top marks for colourful language were awarded….Anyway,,,,, eventually the RTDS started and was almost over when Santa spotted a BBQ, lots of wood and canvas aircraft parked, a beer tent and a goodly crowd of children. Being an aficionado of all; Santa checked his watch and decided a PR exercise was in order; the reindeer were willing to take a break and so without much further ado; Santa lobbed in, sprinkling fairy dust and lollies over the crowd.

While the new composite sled was being admired Santa enjoyed a ginger beer and snag sandwich with the ‘grown ups’ while pointing out the latest technical developments (showing off really); the kids made a fuss of the reindeer and nearly cleaned out the emergency lolly supplies. ” Must get going” says Santa, “long way home and I have one more drop to make”. He looked at the crowd and noted they had gone very silent, the kids had shuffled in behind their Mum’s and the men all gone pale. “Ho ho” says Santa, “it’s not that bad and I’ll be back next year”. As the silence deepened, Santa looked behind him in the direction the crowd was staring; heading towards him were two figures with ‘hi-viz’ vests over cheap, shiny suits. “Oh ho” mused Santa, “what manner of evil is this come to visit me on Christmas eve, that scares the children so?”

“Morning boys” says Santa, ” special request is it?”

Now as you can imagine, Santa was very skilled indeed at handling naughty children and could size them up at a glance. “Trouble, with capital T” thought Santa, “trouble from the ludicrous pointy toed shoes to the close set eyes beneath the short, pudding basin haircuts: best get out of here tout de suite”.

“We demand to inspect your machine and your paperwork” grunts the ‘fat’ one by way of greeting. The skinny one just lifted his clipboard and took a pen out from behind his ear. “Love to oblige” says Santa, “but I’ve things to do and anyway, I’m registered at the North pole, well out of your jurisdiction; so, see you later, Tootle pip”.

Well, he could tell the ‘boys’ were unhappy, looked like a couple of Rottweilers deprived of a Pekinese, “tough luck” thought Santa as he climbed inboard, waved at the kids and started the reindeer moving forward.

It was about rotate speed when bloody Rudolph struck; he had the audience he craved and he was sure his dying swan routine would be appreciated by the kids (he’d bragged, they’d asked to see it). “Bang” he called as loudly as he could, stopped pedalling and went into a spectacular, energetic display of how to completely bugger up a take off. No matter what Santa did, neither threats, promises or even applause could persuade Rudolph to stop messing about and get on with the business at hand. Finally, completely loosing his cool Santa bellowed “Rudolph, you fool, that’s the Australian CASA troops back there and they will want to investigate”. Well that did the tick, Rudolph admitted later that he was so busy doing his act that he only heard the roar of the crowd, the wind in his ears and only one word “CASA”.

The sled magically righted itself as Rudolph got back to work, the rest of Dizzyland had the RTDS treatment and with a sigh of relief; Santa punched in warp speed at Fl 700 and set course for home. His thoughts were of slap up Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, relaxing by a blazing fire, watching the snow fall and telling the tales of derring-do. Little did he know, there was paperwork stalking his trail; for he, unwittingly, had caused mighty offence to the wabbits of the warren in the wild woods of Sleepy Hollow.

So children, here we must leave Santa cruising home, high, fast and free with his thoughts of mud crabs, lobster, prawns, turkey, baked spuds, plum pudding, double cream, washed down by copious amounts of a fine dark ale. Little did he know, the 1700 Christmas eve fax would beat him home.

And so, on to the Party.

The occluded front over Greenland spoiled an otherwise smooth journey back to the NP base; a particularly determined lightning streak had punched through the electronics boot and fried some of CTE’s favourite toys; one of which was the weather protection unit. The magical bubble of warmth and rain repellent protecting the sled quit, instantly. Cursing, wet cold and a little tired Santa dragged out the QRH and torch, opened the circuit breaker panel muttered the necessary incantations and pulled breaker AW25(b). The backup system kicked in and the sled was protected again; but, neither the reindeer or Santa could dry out and it was a wet, cold descent to the FAF. No matter the base weather control was on full blast and the visual approach was conducted through a gin clear, starry night; the base turned on the Aurora Borealis approach lights and with a sigh of relief Santa dropped the skids lined up for this years final approach. A gentle bump, the ancient chant – “Whoa there, Donner, Blitzen; Dasher, Dancer, Comet, Cupid, Prancer and Vixen” was invoked and the sled came to a gentle stop, on the green arrow outside the hanger. The reindeer elves quickly un harnessed the tired dears and whisked them off to their luxurious day spa centre to be cared for, primped and made presentable for the post delivery party.

Santa sat in the sled for moment after finishing the bookwork, listening to the gyro’s running down; would I ever want to do anything else? he asked himself – silly, rhetorical question, he knew: smiling quietly, he levered his stiff body out of the seat. “Made it again” he says to no one in particular and with a nod to the gods, set off for home.

Of course his job was not over yet, the chief tech elf wanted his charge in the hanger as soon as the flight bag was unloaded and he peppered Santa with questions about his precious sleds ills. Had Santa tried this, had he done that; why was flying so close to lightning, was the paper-work all correctly filled out etc. etc; all the way back to the flight office. “Full report tomorrow” says Santa “I want a beer, a bath and a snooze by the fire first, then we’re going to the post delivery party”. The CTE looked glum, wanting all the details now-now – “relax” says Santa “we have until Easter before the sled is needed again, here have an ale, sit a spell”.

Next morning, the CTE and Santa spent some time in the hanger praising the sleds performance and discussing ways to improve the next version over hot fresh coffee and some delicious muffins delivered by a large, magical elephant ‘Merry Christmas from the houseboat crew’ the card said. Both CTE and Santa were suitably impressed by the elephant’s take off performance as it headed to Montreal, “IOS powered” the CTE murmured, “it’s tricky stuff to manage, but if you can get it right; just look at that beast go”. “Magic” says Santa but of course, he knew.

Well, the party was, as always a resounding success. Mrs S knew how to do it and her cousin ‘Minnie’ (delivered by the elephant) was visiting, so all in all; it was a stellar event. Rudolph copped a bit of ‘genteel’ ribbing, for messing about in Dizzyland. The CVR tapes were played and judged against the CTE ‘cussing’ efforts during the pre departure preparation phase; it was a close run thing though; Santa won by a short head, for the pure, inventive genius shown in his dealings with ‘Brisbane”. A special prize was awarded to Blitzen who had mounted a ‘go-pro’ camera in his harness and had recorded the PR visit to the Dizzyland BBQ. The Hi Viz jackets could be seen, lurking in the car park at first whispering to each other; then pacing about, gesticulating and muttering into mobile phones, with their hand cupped over the mouthpiece. Did you know, all elves can lip read? – they can; the noise in the factory, during the pre Christmas production makes it a requirement for employment: and so, the entire audience were treated to a hilarious version of what those, subsequently dubbed Inutile and Dubious (or I&D), had said. It was all great fun..

The fax? – Oh, that was sorted before the party started; I&D thought to ‘do’ Santa for DUI, in fact they had been onto their boss looking for a way to do it; the fax stated clearly that both I&D could smell booze on Santa and his eyes were glassy. Of course, they conveniently ‘forgot’ that you need to do a test and furnish evidence. No matter, the Blitzen recording clearly showed that Santa had a ginger beer with his sandwich; and, the gentleman who gave it to Santa, along with about a dozen others, were all prepared to swear to it: so a stick it in your ear email was sent, via the Prime minister of Dizzyland.

It’s a couple of days later now and the sled is behaving nicely during it’s post maintenance test flight; from my humble right seat in sled I can see Santa is still concerned about it though; he keeps muttering words like odious payback and deceitful tactics. Next year’s visit to Dizzyland will be a doozy, although why he’s bought a diving helmet is a mystery.

Now then where’s that bloody Easter Bunny hopped off to – dollar he’s in the boozer. Better go and get him, dry him out and get him sorted for the egg run; I’m flying that out this year Santa says: once a year to Dizzyland is more than enough for him.

Kindly sponsored by the Defence Against Flaming Troglodytes (DAFT).  The Styx River sled and elephant flying club.  IOS chapter 13, NUTS – Never Underestimate Total Shambollocks.

Toot toot ….Best wishes and all good things, to you and yours…..


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