Annual Aspen Helicopter Santa Flyover scheduled for Christmas Eve

December 21, 2016
Santa Paula News

Although all boys and girls know that Santa is usually seen as a wisp or smoke, kissing Mommy, dipping into the cookies and milk or just as a flash of red and white — accompanied by a hearty “Ho-Ho-Ho!” — and the tiny hooves of reindeers disappearing into the distant night sky, Santa has been known to do a reconnaissance fly over earlier on Christmas Eve.

And, for the 12th year in a row Santa is readying for his high-tech ride over portions of Ventura County courtesy of Aspen Helicopters, Inc., based at the Oxnard Airport.

Although last year the flight was cancelled due to bad weather, Charles McLaughlin of Aspen Helicopter said that Santa would be back Christmas Eve and probably fly over the city around 7 p.m. Saturday night, give or take 15 minutes or so either way.

“There’s only two or three years we were grounded,” said McLaughlin.

In 1982 McLaughlin started the flights after he had a Santa in Lights helicopter specially built  patterned after one constructed by a friend in Helena, Montana, Gerhard Blaine. He added Santa Paula to the route in 2005.

And McLaughlin’s Santa brought so much joy to boys and girls the 40-foot long display was updated “About three or four years ago” to be brighter with LED lights. 

“They’re much easier to power,” said McLaughlin, but the brilliant brightness of the new technology “doesn’t seem to photograph well.”

Whoever flies the helicopter does so alone: “We don’t want to waste the weight,” and McLaughlin said luck decides who will take the controls.

“We all usually show up and flip a coin — whoever loses goes!” he noted.

Santa in Lights’ route includes Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Camarillo, Saticoy, Ventura and — since 2005 — Santa Paula, a trip that takes about two hours. 

Santa will be visiting his namesake city Santa Paula, a flyover scheduled for approximately 7 p.m. when Old St. Nick appears in the sky in the vicinity of — as is fitting — Santa Paula Airport.

The flight, of course, hinges on weather permitting. High winds or rains, and Santa takes the evening off. Last year high winds cancelled the flight, one of the few times Santa missed his annual flyover.

Santa’s Christmas Eve flight schedule is: Oxnard Airport, 6 p.m.; Oxnard Shores/Fifth Street, 6:02 p.m.; Channel Islands Harbor, 6:05 p.m.; Port Hueneme Beach/Pier, 6:08 p.m.; East Port Hueneme, 6:10 p.m.; La Colonia/Fifth Street, 6:13 p.m.; St. John’s Hospital, 6:16 p.m.; El Rio/Nyeland Acres, 6:20 p.m.; Camarillo Airport, 6:25 p.m., Camarillo Outlets, 6:26 p.m.; Carmenito Park, 6:28 p.m.; Mission Oaks/Lewis Road, 6:32 p.m.; Santa Paula Airport, 7 p.m.; East Foothill and Wells roads, 7:10 p.m.; Ventura High School, 7:15 p.m.; Grant Park, 7:18 p.m.; Ventura Avenue, 7:22 p.m.; Crowne Plaza Hotel, 7:28 p.m.; Ventura Keys, 7:32 p.m.; and River Ridge/Patterson and Gonzales roads, 7:38 p.m. before Santa returns to Oxnard Airport.

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