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Disney rules bar Santa from skydive

Anti-terror flight rules specifically written to protect the Disney theme parks have barred Santa Claus from a skydiving start to the holiday season in Anaheim, Calif.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Santa Claus can build toys, shimmy down a chimney and harness flying reindeer. But one thing he can't do any more is skydive near Disneyland.

An annual "Jingle Bell Jump," with Santa parachuting to the Anaheim Town Square shopping center with gifts and greetings, was canceled for a second year because of a federal law restricting use of area airspace.

Instead, Santa will float in a hot air balloon tethered to the ground Friday.

Disney officials say the flight restrictions are needed to thwart terrorists who could target the park. Managers of the 50-store shopping center don't buy it.

"The terrorists are not involved in any way whatsoever," said Ryan Williams, promotions director for center owner NewMark Merrill. "This is Santa landing with his elves."

Under the restriction, aircraft are banned from flying below 3,000 feet within 3 miles of Disneyland or the Disney World resort in Orlando, Fla. No other U.S. theme parks have such protection.

The law has also drawn complaints from local pilots who have had to change flight paths and operators of banner-towing planes who can no longer fly above the park.

Last year, Santa arrived in a fire truck.

Williams said he still hopes next year to resurrect the skydive, which began in 1999 and drew a few thousand people a year. He said he will circulate a petition asking Congress to reconsider the law and distribute signs that read, "Let Santa land in 2005."