You could hear the squeals of joy all the way to the North Pole as Skyservice Flight 900 took off from Pearson International Airport on a special mission — to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus before the big night.

“Santa, Santa, Santa,” cheered 85 children and their families as the Boeing 757 made its way above the clouds to the fabled home and workshop of the jolly old elf, via northern New York, yesterday. It only took an hour thanks to the sonic rocket boosters on the aircraft.

And just as passengers big and small were getting into the groove, the captain announced the sighting of a strange craft pulled by what appeared to be reindeer. Then there was a thud and the sound of footsteps on the roof of the fuselage.

As if by magic, the white-bearded, barrel-bellied Claus himself appeared in the aircraft, ho ho ho-ing down the aisle as children shouted with glee.

“It was the real Santa,” said an ecstatic Stephanie Clayton, 7. “I know because I’ve seen him before and he only wears his magic glasses when he steers on the sled.”

Stephanie, her sisters Sydney, 10, and Danielle, 6, along with mom Denise were among the special guests on the annual Santa flight to the North Pole organized by the Starlight Children’s Foundation of Canada. Each year, it makes dreams come true for thousands of kids who are chronically, critically and seriously ill. Some may not see next Christmas.

“The adventure helps children forget their illness,” said Leisa Washington, Starlight’s great escapes co-ordinator.

“The flight gives parents a chance to have fun with all their children.”

The fantasy flight was sponsored by Thomas Cook Travel Canada and Skyservice.

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