Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has gone rogue, and he's taken Santa Claus with him.
Instead of leading Santa's sleigh, the reindeer - or, at least, a man dressed like him - will pilot an airplane on Saturday. And in the cockpit next to him will ride jolly old St. Nick.
"They're going to fly in on the SNJ, the T-6 trainer. It's a two-seater with an open cockpit, so the kids can see Santa coming," says Joyce Moorman of the Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing Aviation Museum in Mesa.
She's expecting about 500 children for the museum's fourth annual Santa fly-in.
The bright blue plane, which served as an airborne classroom for Allied pilots training to fly in World War II, will land at 11 a.m., in view of the crowd. An old-timey fire engine will escort Santa from the runway to the hangar, where kids will be able to share their wish lists.
"They just go crazy when they see him land and come in on the fire truck," says Moorman. "You don't want to be in their way when they go running for Santa."
The first 100 children through the door will receive a diecast model of the museum's "Sentimental Journey," a Boeng B-17G "Flying Fortress" airplane that rolled off the assembly line in 1944 and served in World War II's Pacific theater.
That plane will be open for visitors to look at and walk through. About 18 other "warbirds" will be on display, too.
Assorted model planes will be given away in hourly drawings.
Admission is free with donation of new, unwrapped toy. The museum is collecting them through Dec. 18 for East Valley Firefighter Charities. The admission deal will be good through that date, says Moorman.
A $1 discount on admission is also available; bring a non-perishable food donation to get that deal.
DETAILS >> 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing Aviation Museum, 2017 N. Greenfield Road, Mesa. $10 for adults, free for children 12 and younger. Free with donation of a new, unwrapped toy. (480) 924-1940 or www.azcaf.org.