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    Welcome to the Ambassablog! We're the front-line employee bloggers of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority and participants in the Airport Authority's Goodwill Ambassador Program.

    Here you'll find our continually updated posts about life at historic San Diego International Airport (Lindbergh Field).

    Take a look around, and Email us if there's something you'd like to see added to the Ambassablog or covered in future posts.
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    For questions or information about this blog and other social media tools used by San Diego International Airport, contact:
    Steven Shultz, M.S.
    Deputy Director, Public & Community Relations /
    San Diego County Regional Airport Authority: sshultz@san.org
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Alaska Airlines’ Best-Kept San Diego Secret


California Wine Country — less than two hours away from San Diego, thanks to Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air.

Did you know that Alaska Airlines operates a daily flight from San Diego to the California wine country?

I recently took the flight for a four-day weekend. It’s operated by Alaska’s regional partner, Horizon Air, and is served by a Bombardier Q400. That’s a modern turboprop aircraft which seats close to 80 people, with 2 seats on each side of the aisle.



The mid-morning flight from SDIA was smooth and congenial. There was a snack and a complimentary glass of wine (or craft beer if you prefer) to ensure my holiday got off to a good start.

The flight took less than two hours and arrived at Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport just in time for lunch. Having skirted the larger airports, I missed all the hassle and cost of trying to transverse the busy Bay Area. Instead I stepped off the plane and into the bright Sonoma sunshine, with only a short drive to the nearest vineyard.


The Girl & the Fig restaurant in Sonoma Plaza.

It was a delightful four days—including oysters in the coastal hamlet of Point Reyes Station, Russian River wine tastings, and a delightful dinner at the Girl & the Fig restaurant on the Sonoma Plaza.

On my way out of Sonoma, I stopped by the outdoor patio of the airport’s Sky Lounge and savored one last glass of chardonnay. Then I walked the short distance to my return flight and was off. The late afternoon flight arrived in San Diego just in time to see the sun set.

Ahh… here’s to the good life.NewAnnBlogPic

Check out this Alaska Airlines flight the next time you have a hankering for the wine country! Alaska Airlines is online at:  http://www.alaskaair.com.  And you can book your flight using the AIrport Authority’s online route map.


Spring has sprung — get out the hoe!

Kelly 'killing' the lawn.

Organic edibles.

The Airport Authority has its share of home gardeners, from sunflowers to heirloom tomatoes to jalapeño peppers.  But one of our own does it in a big way—and it’s hit the local press.

Rainwater collection system.

One of our technology gurus not only has all of his gears turning but actually has two green thumbs.  Kelly in the Airport Authority’s Information Technology Department and his wife, Janet, decided to convert their yard into an edible garden two years ago, and they haven’t looked back. Together they spent the better part of 2009 organically “killing” their lawn by depriving it of water, spraying it with vinegar, and cutting it super short.  They then covered it with cardboard, water and 14 cubic yards of mulch, letting it compost for the organic edibles to follow.

Janet admits that “it looked like the dark side of the moon for nine months or so.”    Kelly says that Janet brings the passion for saving the planet but that he seems to have a natural affinity for plants.

Nature's bounty.

Now, arugula, carrots, chives, green rhubarb, lima beans, radishes, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, celery, asparagus, squash and tomatoes all tumble out of raised beds or climb stakes and trellises.  Passion fruit drops off vines that run along the garden’s edge (vines that are 20 feet long and 5 feet high).  Blueberries and lemons flourish on bushes and trees.

Compost is amended with worm castings and rain gutters have been added to collect water from those rare San Diego rain showers.   The latest addition is a fortified trellis engineered by Kelly (it’s that geek thing coming through again…) that can support all of the weight of the tomatoes.

A yard transformed.

Kelly and Janet share ideas with other local enthusiasts through such organizations as San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project and Victory Gardens San Diego.  If you are interested in learning more about Kelly’s gardening  feats,  check out the cover story in the Sep 2011 issue of the San Diego Reader.

Meanwhile, bring on those tomatoes, Kelly!

Talk about teamwork …

Nyle, the Airport Authority's Manager of Concession Development.

There are great team players everywhere.  Here is the story of one of our own….

Nyle, the Airport Authority’s Manager of Concession Development, was recently tasked with heading the selection process for San Diego International Airport’s new Concessions Development Program (CDP). Nyle was charged with engaging all stakeholders, acting as staff liaison to the CDP evaluation panel, and working with the Airport Authority’s Procurement Department to ensure an impartial and transparent selection process.

In preparation for the airport’s old master concessionaire arrangement coming to an end at the end of 2012 due to lease expiration, 16 Request for Proposal (RFP) packages for new food and retail concessions were already on the street, and responses were coming in. Interest from both local and national concessionaires was intense, and the timeline was tight.

Click the image above to see larger images of where all the great new shops and restaurants are going to be located at San Diego International Airport, starting in December 2012.

With a keen understanding of the Airport Authority’s collaborative culture, Nyle starting knocking on doors. He believes, as does the Airport Authority, in an “inclusive” approach to teamwork.

As he identified and engaged stakeholders, Nyle took the time to talk with each of them on the importance of their role in the effort. Where he felt he needed extraordinary support, he worked hard to obtain it. Through an ongoing, two-way dialogue, he was able to establish a trust level among stakeholders that extended all the way to the President/CEO’s office.As a result, everyone knew their role and what they could expect from Nyle.

As the effort gained momentum, Nyle made multiple presentations to the Airport Authority Board (which he identified as one of his key stakeholders).  These presentations were crafted to provide a clear and consistent message across all 16 concession packages.

Nyle kept on point as he disseminated information about the program, both within the Airport Authority and externally to concessionaires and the San Diego community.

Stakeholders came away proud to be part of a very successful effort and with a great appreciation for the collaborative skills of Nyle.The selection process concluded on time and won Board approval of staff’s recommendation for all 16 concession packages. As a result, SDIA will offer more than 80 great new food and retail concessions beginning in December, 2012.

Give us five, Nyle!

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And the beat goes on …

Jackie Robinson Family YMCA Drum Line students get a lesson from Tyra

Tyra, of the Airport Authority’s Access Control Office, and the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA  in San Diego are striking up a band. To be more specific, a “show band-style” drum line.

Jackie Robinson YMCA Drum Line students

A Jackie Robinson Family YMCA program, this is not just a drum line; it’s a lifestyle. The kids participating must be in school, have a good GPA, and already be playing in their school band. Once selected, they learn a unique style of drum line. “Show band-style” means music and entertainment, with the drummers marching, twirling and dancing while they play.

Tyra learned this style in Detroit, where she was part of her high school drum line at Cass Technical High School and then went  on to the world-famous Grambling State University Show Band. She has brought her passion for music to San Diego.

In partnership with the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA, Tyra is introducing this program within a southeastern San Diego community that has seen a decline in school enrollment and a rise in gang violence. Her goal is for the drum line to give the kids and their community a renewed sense of pride and something good to look forward to.

Tyra offers helpful tips to a student drummer.

“We want kids to join a team, not a gang, but it gets complicated. Every child does not have access to neighborhood facilities. Most can’t afford participation fees. The shortage of responsible adult volunteers makes it difficult to stage youth activities in areas that need the most intensive programs. When a child becomes hardened and committed to crime, exposed to and addicted to drugs and alcohol, physically injured, scarred or murdered, that is indeed the greatest loss of all. Tyra … is a great example of the power of one person making a difference in the lives of kids from San Diego County’s most critical community.”

— Jackie Robinson Family YMCA Executive Director, Michael Brunker

The first drum line is working hard rehearsing for their first performance, which will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 10, 2011 at the Jackie Robinson YMCA. Here’s a flyer about the performance:

Additional performances are planned at the YMCA and other venues. Who knows, maybe they’ll even turn up at a future Chargers game.

By next year, Tyra plans to grow the program to include more kids and possibly a band camp. She also hopes to increase sponsorship and opportunities to perform. The word is already out in the community, and calls are coming in.  If you  live in the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA community, or want more information, contact Tyra at 619-407-0122 or tyra_hawthorne@yahoo.com.

A tortoise named Bentley


Many Airport Authority employees are animal lovers.  But here is a story of a very special relationship between one employee and an African Spurred Tortoise (geochelone sulcata).

Bentley, a geochelone sulcata, and small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, came home with the employee’s daughter for a few weeks stay.  No one realized that she (yes- “she”  – Bentley as it turned out, was a female tortoise) was home to stay.  The daughter found a job and new digs, but Bentley stayed on – basking under the heat lamp in her critter cage or munching such delectables as: dandelion greens, kale, strawberries, and timothy hay (…timothy hay?).

Evenings were spent perched on a lap or shoulder as the family watched TV, and occasionally rubbing her tortoise head against someone’s cheek.  She waited patiently for the family to come home and followed them around the kitchen as they made dinner, always on the lookout for a stray piece of avocado, or anything green for that matter.  Bentley showed a special zeal for fresh guacamole.

Time passed and Bentley grew.  No longer able to sit on a shoulder, she contented herself with following the family around until bedtime, when she was tucked away for the night.  A custom cage was built for her in the back yard, with a heat lamp and an open area for sunbathing on those warmer San Diego days.  Bentley was still carried into the house each night, but she was getting too big even for this.  She was growing fast and now weighed close to 35 pounds.  Longer-term plans had to be made.

The search was on for the right home (with visitation rights, of course).  After weeks of searching,  a family was found in North County that already had other tortoises and lots of land for rambling.  It was time for Bentley to visit and be introduced to an older female tortoise.  The two tortoises hit it off and now occupy a sunny enclosure with lots of trees and water.   Bentley has plenty of room to roam, forage and keep growing (which she will surely do).  And she has a new companion with whom to spend her days.

And the employee (who remains fondly anonymous) … well, it will never be the same without this unique animal around the house, but she’s not far away for an occasional visit from that Airport Authority employee who became so fond of her.

Do you know and love any other strange critters out there?  Can we talk?  Tell us about them in the comments section below …

More about tortoises like Bentley:


The Sulcata is the third largest species of tortoise in the world after the Galapagos tortoise, and Aldabra Giant Tortoise; and the largest of the mainland tortoises.[4] Adults are usually 24 to 36 inch long (60-90 cm) and can weigh 100-200 pounds (45 – 91 kg). They grow from hatchling size (2-3 inches) very quickly, reaching 6-10 inches (15-25 cm) within the first few years of their lives. The lifespan of an African Spurred Tortoise is about 30-50 years.

The Airport Authority aims to keep employees safe

The Airport Authority takes safety very seriously.  Our most important mission is to help ensure the safety of our passengers at San Diego International Airport.  This mission extends to our employees, too.

In the days following After the recent region-wide power outage on Thursday, September 8, 2011, Airport Authority employees sent letters of gratitude to Jeff, the Employee Safety and Workers Compensation Analyst in Human Resources. Why? well, in recent years Jeff and the Airport Authority Employee Safety Committee have taken many opportunities to help our employees prepare for emergencies.

This team monitors employee evacuation drills, organizes our participation in the Great Shake Out statewide earthquake drill, and maintains all of our first aid kits. In addition, they hold an annual safety event to make sure “safety” remains a top priority for all of us. At many of these events, Jeff and the team have supplied employees with some great emergency tools. Among them:  a crank radio, a crank flashlight and an emergency kit in a water bottle.

Well, it seems that quite a few employees cranked up that radio and flashlight last Thursday night – and that made quite a difference.   Employees were able to stay informed on the outage and light their way around the house.

Thank you, Jeff, and thank you, Airport Authority Employee Safety Committee – for all you do to help keep us safe!

Literacy changes lives

Suzanne from the Airport Authority's Office of the Chief Auditor and one of the many literacy students she helps, Min Kyun Kim.

The Airport Authority is a strong advocate for literacy in the San Diego community. Authority employees have contributed money over the years toward improving literacy through their annual United Way donations. Former Authority Board member Bill Lynch helped match those contributions during his tenure. And Jeff Woodson, our Vice President of Administration, currently sits on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Council on Literacy.

Several Authority employees have volunteered their personal time to work toward a more literate San Diego by serving as tutors for the Laubach Literacy Council of San Diego County. Laubach focuses on teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) and this May is celebrating its 50th year of service here in San Diego. Founded by Dr. Frank Laubach, the motto of “Each One Teach One” still flourishes through the organization’s free one-on-one and small group tutoring programs. There are 15 centers throughout San Diego County serving the individual needs of diverse students, who not only come from our communities but from around the globe: Mexico to Iran to South Korea and beyond.

Suzanne Olinzock, an employee in our Office of the Chief Auditor, has volunteered at Laubach’s Clairemont Literacy Center for the past five years. She recently handed over her duties as the Center’s director to pursue a professional certification in ESL at UCSD. She continues to co-direct as well as tutor at Clairemont. Suzanne finds the work truly enriching and says, “It’s very gratifying to watch students gain confidence in speaking and writing English in both their personal and professional lives.” She has also made a lot of wonderful friends over the years.

There are many ways to contribute to our San Diego community, but if literacy is a passion of yours and you would like to tutor speakers of other languages, then Laubach could be for you. Volunteers are always welcome. Laubach prepares its volunteers through tutor training. Check out their website for a Laubach Literacy Center near you at: http://www.laubachsandiego.org/  or feel free to contact Suzanne directly at solinzoc@san.org.

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