OKAY BOYS AND GIRLS, Christmas is coming! … No, let me rephrase that and say it will soon be here. As a matter of fact it's almost here – just ten more days. And because of that, this column has been written for you. Grab a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows in it, a few Christmas cookies and gather 'round the ol' tree. Go ahead. I'll wait.
There now. Are you comfortable? Good, now listen up to what I'm going to say, because I think it's time we discuss a few Christmas issues. Is that okay with you?
Surprisingly, there are many youngsters who don't believe reindeer can fly. Isn't that silly? And, I'm sad to tell you, there are also many adults who feel the same way. Because of that, they doubt the reality of jolly ol' Santa Claus. But not me. No-siree-bob! I'm telling you they are all wrong.
That's right. I know reindeer can fly. And here's why.
The next time you see a reindeer up close – or even a photo of one – take a good look at its hooves. Notice how wide they are and how they're splayed. That's for walking in the ground and in snow. Two wide footprints per leg give a better grip and traction in snow than just one. And, with each reindeer having four legs, that's eight wide footprints per deer. It's no wonder they can land on top of snowy roofs without sliding off. That means the entire team – with Rudolph, totals 72 footprints per landing.
If you doubt my word, call up Goodyear and ask them how important a tire's "footprint" is when you drive on snowy roads. They know because that's how they build tires, wide with a nice big footprint so you get home safely.
As for taking off, it may look like the hardest part of a reindeer's job, but actually it isn't nearly as hard as it looks. Of all life in the animal kingdom, reindeer have the highest ratio of thrust per pound of body weight whenever they leap. They're able to jump nearly five times higher than white tail deer and when they do leap to a flying start their splayed hooves "grab" pockets of air. The motion of their legs moving from front to rear and pushing the pockets of air behind them thrusts them forward. This action is assisted by hideaway webs between their hooves that fold up when not in use. They are the only deer in the animal kingdom with this unique feature.
Now take a look at their antlers. They're huge aren't they? That's because they have to be if they want to fly, or else they'd never get Santa's Sleigh to your housetop roof for him to slide down your chimney and deliver your toys Christmas Eve. The reason they are so big is because they play an important part in the flight.
Page 2 of 2 - You see, kids, parts of a reindeer's antlers are wide and somewhat flattened, especially out near their very tips. And there's a good reason for that. If they weren't, Santa's sleigh would be grounded … permanently. In addition, the runners on the sleigh are hollow and filled with helium; the same gas in a balloon that makes it rise. Plus, by having hollow sleigh runners, it eliminates much of the iron metal weight.
Close your eyes for a minute. Are they closed? Good! Now think of a small, single engine, airplane with its overhead wings extending far to the right and far out to the left. Can you see it? Good! Picture the flatness of the wings. That flatness allows some air to flow under, but more air to flow over the wings, thus giving the airplane what we call "lift." The tips of the antlers work much the same way. As the reindeer's webbed hooves push more air into the rear, 16 extended wide flat antlers on the top "lift" the sleigh and help stabilize it so toys don't fall off.
I suspect Wilbur and Orville Wright may have noticed this on the antlers of Santa's reindeer long before they ever built the first airplane. In observing the reindeer, I also suspect they adopted the same principle to make that first airplane that flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina that chilly Dec. 17 day in 1903, precisely one week before Christmas Eve.
Were the Wright Brothers trying to perfect a backup system for Santa in case the reindeer ever became injured or even sick? They never said anything to this effect, so we have no way of knowing, but from extensive research, I learned how the Wright Brothers were rushing to be the first in flight. The fact that their first flight was so close to Christmas Eve, has often had me wondering.
History certainly doesn't say it happened that way, and neither Wilbur nor Orville have ever mentioned it, but there are plenty of stories floating around about how both of them loved the Christmas holidays and had always looked forward to the Christmas Eve festivities. It sure makes you wonder, doesn't it?
And even though the US Government neither endorses nor denies whether reindeer can really fly, they do track the reindeer and Santa's sleigh on their radar each year and then publish a minute by minute account of his flight online each Christmas Eve for girls and boys to track as Santa makes his annual goodwill trek around the world.