0 Days To Go: Merry Christmas!

We at Tradings 8s wish a very happy holidays to all of you! We hope you enjoyed our countdown, and we apologize for the gaps thereof. For our final countdown post, our resident engineer is back with a post that is both entertaining and educational.   😉  — AWO

by Alex Nakahara

Whenever Christmas rolls around, there are inevitably a horde of physics students and teachers eagerly deconstructing Santa Claus. To carry presents for all the children in world and deliver them in one night would result in a massive fiery comet of Christmas cheer flaming across the night sky. Obviously not a good result. However, with the help of a little modern technology, I will endeavor to show you that all hope is not lost.  

Assumptions:

  1. Let’s focus on American children.
  2. Assume that everyone has a decent-sized, accessible chimney.
  3. Santa doesn’t necessarily have to hand-deliver each present. Come on, everyone knows your parents eat the cookies.
  4. Santa’s rich (enough to pay off the FAA).
  5. Uniform (small) present size. Don’t get greedy.

There are about 74 million children under the age of 18 in the US. Since Christians are 79% of the country, we can assume that 58.5 million celebrate Christmas. We’ll make things a little bit harder for Santa and assume they all believe in him and get presents. At a weight of 1 pound per package (action figures, dolls, lego sets, etc.), that’s 58.5 million pounds of toys to deliver.

The world’s largest plane, the Antonov AN-225 can carry a maximum payload of 550,000 pounds. Santa therefore needs 107 of these monsters (ignoring the fact that there is only 1 operational. Santa’s well-connected.) To please traditionalists, he named each one after a reindeer. (Yes, there are more than eight reindeer. What else is there to do at the North Pole for 364 days of the year?)

To get the presents to each child, I drew on my senior design project. It’s possible to put a GPS chip in a parachute, attach motors, and steer it to a desired destination. If each package has one of these guided parachutes, then all Santa has to do is release the presents from the plane when he is above the appropriate house. The presents could then float down, land in the chimney, and be placed under the tree in time for morning. Unrealistic, yes, but theoretically possible.

Assuming a range of 20 miles for a parachuted present, and the dimensions of the U.S to be 2000 miles north to south and 3000 miles east to west, Santa needs at least 100 (2000 miles / 20 miles) planes flying east to west to cover the land area of the U.S.

Since the range of an AN-225 with maximum payload is 2,500 miles, Santa probably needs a fleet of tankers to refuel them while flying. Obviously, a bit better routing is needed since the population is not evenly distributed across the country, but that should not be extremely difficult to figure out.

Lastly, the cruise speed of the AN-225 is 500 mph, so they can complete their cross-country flight in 6 hours, well before the sun begins to rise.