"Sleigh 2002"  

by Don Fenton



The Dilemma 

As a model builder interested in accuracy, I have found the information available on the configuration of Santa's Sleigh to be shrouded in myth, controversy and outright fabrication.  Much of the controversy stems from Santa's use of the MAGIC stealth technology, rendering himself and the sleigh invisible to radar, infrared and visual observation.

I wanted to build an accurate model of Santa's Sleigh.  Unfortunately, the Sleigh has obviously evolved over the centuries, mirroring the state of Sleigh building technology then available.  The MAGIC has also evolved in keeping with the need to match the evolution of surveillance technology.  Once, defeating visual observation was sufficient.  Now, of course, the MAGIC is faced with the task of defeating observation over virtually the entire electromagnetic spectrum.  Santa and his Elves have very successfully accomplished this daunting task.  However, the most serious threat to MAGIC is the increasing deployment of MYTHKILLER.  As a result, on occasion, radar returns are detected from the Sleigh as well as unsubstantiated sightings by various pilots and other dependable observers.  This has resulted in most of the controversy concerning the configuration of the Sleigh.

For those interested in accuracy, a 45-minute video tape has been released of the FOX Network show "Yes, Virginia…".  That program examined a video tape taken by a Japanese tourist on an airliner flying near the North Pole in late November of this year.  The tape, shot from a passenger window in First Class, shows what appears to be the Sleigh 2002 passing on an opposing course very close to the port side of the China Airways 747-400.  The tape is of poor quality and taken in low light conditions.  The 747 was forced to dive to avoid an in-flight collision, adding to the blurred images of the Sleigh.

For the show, the videotape was digitally enhanced and showed an outline of the Sleigh, providing the only known photographic image of this unique vehicle.  In the course of the program, FOX reported that NASA had analyzed the tape and declared that the images were the result of a beverage cart being reflected in the window as the tape was being made.  The pilot and co-pilot of the 747 were fired when an FAA review of the cockpit voice tapes purported to find both asleep.  The pilots have vehemently denied being asleep stating that they dived the aircraft to avoid an unknown aircraft as directed by the Collision Avoidance System.  The dive of the 747 was officially attributed to clear air turbulence and flight crew inattention.  The pilots are suing to regain their jobs.

Experts on the legend of the Sleigh stated on the show that the Sleigh 2002 was clearly undergoing flight testing and had a MYTHKILLER induced MAGIC malfunction.  However, an anonymous FAA official said, "The tape is a fraud.  Complete hogwash.  The Sleigh does not exist.  End of story."  FOX reported that rumors continue of the existence of a damaged Sleigh being kept by the US government at an unspecified testing site in northern Canada.

The Model 

I used the image that I saved from the TV show to get the outline of the Sleigh 2002.  I used my CAD program to enhance the image and scale out the dimensions.  I based these on the estimated size of the driver of the Sleigh, whose vague outline can be made out on the image.  The profile of the driver bears a striking resemblance to what we have come to accept as Santa Claus.  Note that the Sleigh 2002 is radically different from the usual representations of a sleigh.  These old, unsubstantiated drawings of the previous versions of the Sleigh show a vehicle similar to a terrestrial, reindeer powered sleigh, not so the Sleigh 2002.  I built the Sleigh 2002 in 1/48 scale.

Styrene and clear acrylic sheet was used to fabricate the body of the Sleigh.  The various appointments were taken from the scrap box.  According to MAGIC experts, the bow shaped structure on the top is an emitter array.  I can only guess that the spheres are also part of the MAGIC system. 

Painting the Sleigh 

Another controversy.  What color is the Sleigh 2002?  The Sleigh is usually represented as a bright red color based on the whim or opinion of the artist producing the drawing or illustration.  Examination of copies of the notes from the trained observers in the Royal Society of Sleigh Watchers, or the Sleigh Spotters, indicate that those few reported observations of the Sleigh are subject to considerable doubt and disbelief.  However, those observers who claim to have seen the Sleigh in past decades are adamant that the color was a bright red.

Mr. Anders H., a Swede, and a model builder known to many on various discussion groups, has produced a remarkable artifact - a color sample.  Anders said that he collected the sample several years ago when his chimney was damaged by the passage of an unknown aerial vehicle on Christmas Eve.  Anders says it could not have been a helicopter or such as the only sound that accompanied the vehicle was clicking and the scrap against the chimney.  No other tracks were left.  According to Anders, the color is a bright gloss red, closely matched by FS13116 Insignia Red, but a little darker and brighter. 

Click on images below to see larger images

The Interior 

The interior color and appointments are entirely conjectural.  I reasoned that with such a busy schedule and all those touch-and-go's that Santa would have little need for posh details or a seat cushion.  So, I built in a bench seat.  Besides, he has plenty of cushion.  The floor boards were painted flat black to simulate an anti-skid surfacer.  Perhaps Anders' color chip may show traces of a primer. 

The Exterior 

A number of experts in color schemes and photographic interpretation have examined the images from the videotape.  Some say that the Sleigh 2002 is clearly not red.  The Sleigh 2002 is obviously a dark color.  Opinions vary, some experts insisting the color to be either a dark matte forest green or a dark matte sea blue.  Others, in the minority, insist that the actual color is gloss red, the photographic conditions producing the dark green or blue-green color.  Yet others believe that the color is not the final Christmas flight color scheme, but one showing the color of the unpainted materials of construction, whatever they may be.  Or alternatively, a special test color scheme may have been applied.

I could not bring myself to part from tradition.  I believe that the Sleigh 2002 was painted in flight test colors, not representative of the final color, that being the accepted and traditional red.  So I painted my Sleigh gloss red, using Model Master Guards Red, lightened with a little light blue-grey for scale effect.  The trim color is gloss white and silver applied to suit my fancy.

The Powerplant 

I could not find suitable 1/48 scale reproductions of the required miniature reindeer.  And, I have no my sculpting ability.  So I left off the reindeer, the traces and the guidance controls - the reins.  This should open the opportunity for the aftermarket resin and PE companies to produce the required items.  A scale Rudolph with a working LED nose would be way cool.  And, we need an accurate 1/48 scale Santa Claus in flight clothing please. 

Happy Holidays!  Be Well and Prosperous in the New Year in 2003. 


Photos and text © by Don Fenton