SANTA'S WORKSHOP — The North Pole is in the midst of a readiness crisis as it struggles to fill its pilot ranks with qualified reindeer, who are leaving the service in record numbers to work at commercial sleighlines, sources confirmed today.
Santa Claus claims he has only 75 percent of the deerpower he needs to deliver presents this year, especially in crucial heavy lift squadrons.
"This is truly alarming. There is no way I'll be able to deliver presents to all the good girls and boys, let alone coal to all the naughty ones," said Claus. "The reindeer we do have are being worked to the antler, flying three or four gumdrop sorties a day."
Santa is offering hefty incentive bonuses to keep reindeer from leaving for more lucrative jobs at commercial sleighlines like Hoofthansa. But even offers of triple helpings of moss and herbs are not enough to keep them in the service. Unless he can fix the retention problem soon, Santa says he might have to cancel Christmas across large swaths of North and South America.
"We're trying to do more with less, but the fact is that's impossible," said Lt. Col. Rudolph, commander of Red Squadron. "With this Op Tempo, my guys already refuse to fly over Detroit and Chicago. It's just too dangerous."
The average reindeer costs about $1 million and takes 3 years to train, according to North Pole figures. The North Pole needs to keep those ruminants in its ranks past their initial commitment to maximize return on its investment.
"Not only are large numbers of reindeer getting out, our best reindeer are getting out," said Rudolph. "Donner and Blitzen dropped papers last week, and Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen all took private jobs at Doeing testing unmanned sleighs."
While Claus increasingly has been filling the ranks with unmanned aerial sleighs (UASs), turnover among the elves who pilot them has also been an issue.
"These UAS pilots are always on the clock, delivering presents to hundreds of houses an hour from thousands of miles away," he said. "Nobody can handle that much Christmas cheer. Nobody."