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CANADIAN NORAD REGION NAMES SANTA CLAUS ESCORT PILOTS

WINNIPEG – Four fighter pilots, Maj. Darron Bazin and Capt. Jody Edmonstone of 3 Wing Bagotville and Capt. Damian Unrau and Capt. Brian Bews of 4 Wing Cold Lake, will be the official escort pilots for Santa Claus when he visits Canada during his annual Christmas Eve trip around the world.

Once alerted by Canadian Air Defence Sector Operations Centre at 22 Wing North Bay, Ont., that Santa is en-route, two CF-18 Hornet fighters from 3 Wing Bagotville, Que. will meet Santa Claus as he enters Canadian air space off the Newfoundland and Labrador coast. As Santa finishes his trip across North America from east to west, CF-18 Hornet fighter jets from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta. will escort Santa out of Canadian airspace to continue his Yuletide trip.

Canadian fighter pilots will gather the first pictures of Santa and his sleigh as he arrives over the continent using special NORAD SantaCams mounted on their aircraft. At Santa’s request, millions of curious children will be able to closely follow his progress and view near real-time updates through special digital photographs and technical information compiled by NORAD. This information can be accessed through the Internet at www.noradsanta.org.

Santa has communicated to NORAD that he intends to begin his journey at 3 a.m. EST, Dec 24. At that time, NORAD’s tracking data will be translated into streaming audio and video updates and posted to the web site's radar map. This site is available in French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and English. To receive updates on Santa’s Christmas Eve journey, children may also call the traditional “NORAD Tracks Santa” telephone hotline at 1-877-HI NORAD. This hotline is available beginning 9 a.m. EST on Dec 24 through 3 a.m. EST on Dec 25.

Children have been visiting the website since its launch to view information about Santa that NORAD experts have collected over the years. Examples of NORAD intelligence available on the site include: what snacks Santa and his Reindeer enjoy eating; how he manages to visit so many homes in one night; and even how NORAD's satellites detect Rudolph's red nose.

This year marks the 50th season of “NORAD Tracks Santa.” The "NORAD Tracks Santa" tradition started in 1955 by pure accident after a newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colo., where NORAD Headquarters is located, ran an advertisement for a department store "Santa Hotline." The ad included a special phone number, which turned out to be the "Operations Hotline" to Continental Air Defence Command (NORAD’s predecessor). Needless to say, the military personnel on duty were very surprised to hear small children's voices on the Operations Hotline asking to speak to Santa. The senior officer on duty at the time took the first call and quickly figured out what had happened. He told the kids that he was helping Santa and that he could see him on the radar screens heading south from the North Pole. Local media heard of the calls and reported the story locally. The next year, calls came flooding in to Continental Air Defence Command from children who wanted to know where Santa was. A tradition was born – a tradition NORAD assumed in 1958. Since then, the program has expanded gradually over the years until it hit the Internet in 1997. During the 2003 site activation period (Dec-Jan), 712 million hits were received.

NORAD uses a network of ground-based radars, sensors and fighter jets to detect, intercept and, if necessary, engage any threats to the continent. Canada’s NORAD forces include the Canadian NORAD Region Headquarters at Winnipeg, Canadian Air Defence Sector Air Operations Centre (SAOC) at 22 Wing North Bay as well as Canadian CF-18 Hornet fighter jets from 441 and 416 Tactical Fighter Squadrons at 4 Wing Cold Lake, and 425 and 433 Tactical Fighter Squadrons at 3 Wing Bagotville. NORAD also receives surveillance data from the U.S. Strategic Command on potential threats from outer space. Top
Santa Tracker Biographies
Maj. Darron Bazin

Maj. Darron Bazin was born in Estevan, Sask. He completed pilot training in 1982 through the Flying Scholarship Program in Regina and went on to complete an aviation degree through Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alta. He joined the Canadian Forces in 1987 and was awarded his wings in 1989. Maj. Bazin went on to fly the CT-133 and CF-5 and completed tactical flying training on the CF-18 in 1991 in Cold Lake, Alta. Most of his flying career has been spent at 3 Wing Bagotville, but he has had a range of international postings including Baden Soëlingen, Germany and even one tour flying the F-16 with the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Maj. Bazin is currently the Operations Officer for 425 Alouette Squadron, 3 Wing Bagotville. He is married and has two children.
Capt. Jody Edmonstone

Capt. Jody Edmonston was born in Owen Sound, Ont. in 1975. He joined the military in 1997 after graduating from the Seneca College Aviation and Flight Technology program. Upon being awarded his wings in 1999, he was posted to 410 TFS(OTU) "Cougars" at 4 Wing Cold Lake for training on the CF-18. Upon completion of CF-18 training in 2001, he was posted to 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron "Alouettes" at 3 Wing Bagotville. Capt. Edmonstone has been flying CF-18's for 4 years and has flown many exciting missions but expects that the opportunity to escort Santa through Eastern Canada this Christmas will be the most exciting yet.
Capt. Damian Unrau

Capt. Damian Unrau was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Lowe Farm MB. He joined the military in 1992 and graduated from the Royal Military College of Kingston with a Bachelor of Computer Science in 1996. In 1997 he completed his advanced jet training and was posted as a flying instructor on the CT-114 Tutor and CT-156 Harvard II training aircraft at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Sask. He completed his fighter pilot training in October 2004, and was posted to 416 “Lynx” Tactical Fighter Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta., where he serves currently. This is his first year tracking Santa.
Capt. Brian Bews

Capt. Brian Bews was raised in Eatonia, Saskatchewan. In 1999 he graduated from Mount Royal College with an Aviation Diploma. He joined the Canadian Air Force in January 1999 and received his wings in 2003. Being selected to fly CF-18 Hornets, he was posted to 4 Wing Cold Lake and completed his Fighter Pilot Training in October, 2004. He is currently posted to 416 “Lynx” Tactical Fighter Squadron in Cold Lake. Capt Bews is excited to escort Santa and will ensure his safety on this important day.
 
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