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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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Airport Development Plan: Looking Ahead at San Diego International Airport

As shown in the image above (click on image to see it bigger), beyond Terminal 1 – stretching along North Harbor Drive toward downtown and Laurel Street – we have more area to work with. The acquisition of the former Teledyne-Ryan property within the airport footprint gives us some land to pursue our commitments to diversifying non-airline revenue and creating new options to meet passenger needs.

As shown in the image above (click on image to see it bigger), beyond Terminal 1 – stretching along North Harbor Drive toward downtown and Laurel Street – we have more area to work with. 

With great fanfare, the airport opened its much-heralded Green Build to “oohs” and “ahs”— on time and under budget. It’s been the talk of the town since, as passengers experience the variety of modern conveniences, integrated artwork, and local, national and international food and retail offerings.

But at the Airport Authority, our work to keep the ball of progress rolling never ends. As we celebrate the new, questions arise about what we’ll do with the old. Never fear: airport planners are on the beat!

While it has served the traveling public well, Terminal 1 was built in the 1960s. The time has come to envision replacing this aging infrastructure with something better-suited to serve 21st-century air passengers.

The acquisition of the former Teledyne-Ryan property within the airport footprint gives us some land to pursue our commitments to diversifying non-airline revenue and creating new options to meet passenger needs.

edThis exciting realm of possibilities is part of the Airport Development Plan, or ADP. You’ll be hearing a lot about it in the coming years, just as you’ve grown familiar with the Authority’s other planning efforts, like The Green Build and North Side Development.

The ADP represents a unique opportunity in the life of the airport to influence its future direction. Therefore, we are encouraging the public and all our stakeholders to be involved in the ADP process. To keep abreast of this effort, check out some frequently asked questions about the project and some general information about it here: www.sanplan.com.


More than just SDIA!


Brown Field Municipal Airport in southern San Diego County, near the border with Mexico, is one of ten General Aviation airports in the county.

Have you ever wondered why we’re called a county regional airport authority, instead of, say, the San Diego International Airport Authority?  A lot of people mistakenly believe that we’re an arm of San Diego’s county government because of our name, but that’s not the case. So what’s the reason for our name? It’s been a while since the Ambassablog delved into this, so it seems time for a refresher—and an expanded lesson.

While the Airport Authority operates just one airport, SDIA, we were created by the state with two other mandated functions:  to serve as the regional aviation planning coordinator for the county and to serve as the county airport land use commission.

The latter responsibility is what makes up my job – doing land use compatibility planning for other airports in the county through their adopted Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans( ALUCPs).  I also contributed to the Regional Aviation Strategic Plan (RASP) adopted by the Airport Authority last year.  It evaluated several of these airports for ways to optimize the regional aviation system.

Have you ever seen Fallbrook Community Airpark? Here it is.

So what are those other airports?  There is only one other commercial service airport in the county, McClellan-Palomar in Carlsbad.  Both it and SDIA each also has a general aviation component.  The 10 other public-use airports in the county are strictly for GA:

But the question is often asked, “What exactly is general aviation?”

Ever wonder how your GPS gets its mapping data?  Or how our largely rural international border is monitored?  Or even more basic: how do they maintain many of the massive farm fields that produce our food and nursery plants?

All of these functions and more are largely handled through GA airports! Here are just some of the vital roles handled through these facilities:

  • Emergency preparedness and response, medical transport, and search & rescue missions
  • Aerial firefighting
  • Law enforcement, customs, and homeland/border security
  • Emergency flight diversion
  • Remote community and wilderness access (e.g., islands and reservations)
  • Charter passenger services (e.g., tours, sports and music events)
  • Mail/package delivery and air cargo
  • Corporate transportation
  • Flight instruction
  • Agricultural crop-dusting support
  • Aerial surveying
  • Oil and mineral exploration
  • Utility/pipeline monitoring and inspection
  • Aviation manufacturing, distribution, and maintenance industries
  • Aerospace engineering and research
  • Low-orbit space launch and landing
  • Special public events (e.g., air shows, skydiving)

Ramona Airport.

Whew!  That’s quite a list.  Most people rarely think about GA airports, but they really contribute to our wellbeing.  Life without them would be a lot harder for sure.

So the next time you think about flying, consider that it’s more than just commercial airlines ferrying passengers.  GA airports enhance our daily lives in many ways, so we’re proud to be a County Regional Airport Authority, planning to protect these vital assets in the San Diego region.

San Diego County’s 10 GA airports are part of a network of nearly 3,000 general aviation airports across the country, making their numbers far greater than the commercial service airports with which the flying public is better acquainted.

SDIA has done a good job spreading the word about the economic benefits of our airport, summed up in the slogan “Airports Fuel Regional Economies.”   But GA airports are also critically important to the economic vitality of the regions they serve—far beyond just the recreational pilots and passengers who use them.


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We got the Wright stuff!

You may have noticed that Ohio state license plates proclaim the Buckeye State to be “the Birthplace of Aviation,” while North Carolina plates say the Tarheel State is “First in Flight.” Their respective state commemorative quarters make the same, seemingly competing claims. So which is right?

They’re both right, because of the Wrights … two brothers named Orville and Wilbur. They are credited with having the first successful flights in a heavier than air, mechanically propelled airplane. They were from Dayton, Ohio, and developed all their concepts for flight in their home state. But when it came to a place to actually demonstrate their airplane in action, they chose what meteorological data told them was the windiest point in the United States: Kitty Hawk, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

From the sandy beaches along the Atlantic, the Wright brothers lifted themselves, literally and figuratively, into human flight and one of the greatest achievements of humanity. Aviation as we know it ultimately owes its origins to Orville and Wilbur Wright, and proper tribute is paid to these pioneers at the Wright Brothers Memorial in North Carolina.

I visited the memorial this year, carrying with me from one ocean coast to the other a sense of awe and appreciation for what they achieved.  I certainly got to that location a lot faster by my own air travel! Every year, the date of December 17 is set aside for all Americans to celebrate the Wright brothers’ lift-off from the bonds of earth and gravity on that day in 1903.

San Diego is famous for a lot of aviation achievements in its own right, but we’ve never forgotten where it all began.

Charles Lindbergh may be prominent at airport, which now bears his name, but the legacy of the Wright brothers lives on in a pair of conference rooms at Airport Authority headquarters named for each of them, which can be and often are joined to host large meetings — especially those that welcome the public.

This pair of rooms on the second floor of the Commuter Terminal ensures that we have the Wright stuff, too, adding our own touchstone of respect to a pair of pioneers who did what was once considered impossible. In its own way, San Diego joins Ohio and North Carolina — and we can all be Wright!

Make it to Milwaukee!

Giving the “thumbs up” at the Bronze Fonz on the Milwaukee Riverwalk.

You may recall that two years ago (has it been that long?) a few of my fellow Ambassabloggers and I did a creative send-off of the “Laverne & Shirley” theme to celebrate the launch of non-stop service from SDIA to Milwaukee.  But yours truly had never actually been to Brew City, USA—til now.   And after having experienced a great weekend there, I’d say it’s one of the best underrated destinations our airport offers!

My muse to make the visit was actually a fellow coworker at the airport, our ever-friendly “Plant Man,” Ernie.  He makes the rounds trimming, watering and nurturing our indoor greenery, offering cheerful salutations to everyone.  After having made a trip of his own to Milwaukee, and knowing that I ride a Harley, Ernie suggested that I live out the “Laverne & Shirley” script and see the home of Harley-Davidson and its namesake museum.  I figured that was reason enough to visit.

But I was pleasantly surprised that the Milwaukee Art Museum was yet another great sight to see.  Covering all kinds of media from antiquities to the most contemporary, the museum is a work of art in itself, famous for its unique design and flapping wings.

Playing Evel Knievel at the Harley-Davidson Museum.

But more than museums, the city has some outstanding outdoor offerings in the Mitchell Park Domes and Boerner Botanical Gardens—places sure to please Ernie!

Everyone has to eat, and there’s a lot more than just beer and bratwurst!  Wisconsin is known for its dairy delights, and artisanal cheese plates are a ubiquitous item on every restaurant menu.  For authentic German cuisine, take in the Old World charm of Mader’s.  For farm-to-table freshness from an on-premises garden, try the hip Roots.

I got to relive my own 2010 Harley ride of Route 66 with a Sunday buffet brunch of chef specialties from cafes and diners on the Mother Road at Smyth, the restaurant at the biker-boutique Iron Horse Hotel (yes, bikers can have impeccable tastes!).

No trip to Milwaukee would be complete without a trip to the Safe House.  The average food isn’t the draw, but secreted behind an export building façade accessed from an alley, the place is inspired by the spy hideaway homes of espionage ages past.  It is complete with tricky mazes, Cold War kitsch, and whimsical ambience.  You have to have a password to be let in, but there is a way around that if you don’t know it; I’m sworn to secrecy not to reveal more.

From the eclectic ‘hoods of Brady Street and the Historic Third Ward, to the Milwaukee Riverwalk and Lake Michigan shorefront, Milwaukee abounds with charming, historic architectural stock with one-of-a-kind shops all fit for pedestrian exploration.

Milwaukee is so much more than just its breweries, though one can certainly imbibe well if so inclined.   While there is no visible homage to Laverne and Shirley in their hometown, there is the Bronze Fonz paying tribute to the “Happy Days” character that first put Milwaukee on the entertainment map.  So head off from SDIA and get your own obligatory photo-op with the epitome of coolness!

Meals on … wings?

From left, Airport Planning staff Brett, Sandra, Annette, Lynda, me, Thao (our intern last year), and fellow Ambassablogger Ryan at the San Diego Food Bank.

When the winter holidays (and the tax deductibility at the calendar-year-end) are upon us, many thoughts turn to the less-fortunate among us and offering a helping hand. In these uncertain economic times, needs are particularly pronounced and far-reaching in our regional community.  Unfortunately, those needs exist throughout the year — not just when the colder weather and holiday spirit make us think about those who may need help.

Keith, Director of Airport Planning, has his hands full at the San Diego Food Bank.

In fact, one of the most critical times is actually during the summer months. When kids are out of school for the summer, they aren’t being fed breakfast or lunch in the school cafeteria. Maligned as it may be in popular imagination, these cafeteria meals are often the best nutrition many kids get. But when they’re not in school, a lot of young people may not have the same access to good food.

A primary resource for many needing food in our area is the San Diego Food Bank. A presence in our community since 1977, it distributes over 15 million pounds of food to hungry San Diegans every year. And ever-ready to help … is SDIA staff!

My Airport Planning Department colleagues have taken retreat time the last few years to volunteer at the Food Bank. We’ve all experienced a lot of joy working together to help our community members in need by preparing food packages for delivery. You also learn just how strong you are, packing bags of beans and heavy cans!

It’s just one way the airport acknowledges and gives back to the San Diego region. We’re proud to help and encourage anyone with some time to spare to consider volunteering at the Food Bank.

In this economy, and especially during the summer months, you will do a lot to help local families keep themselves afloat and thriving.

O, Say Can You Fly … to BWI?

Some fellow visitors graciously offered to take this picture of me hoisting Old Glory at Fort McHenry - a memento I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

Regular readers of this blog know that the largest airline by flight and passenger volume at SDIA is Southwest Airlines. But did you know that it has only one non-stop East Coast destination from our airport? The furthest east you can go non-stop with Southwest from San Diego is to Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), roughly a half-hour train ride from our nation’s capital. I recently took the coast-to-coast, five-hour flight to BWI for my first visit ever to Washington, D.C. to see the monuments and museums of America’s heritage.

A shot of the main terminal

Main Terminal at BWI. (Image via Wikipedia.)

One of the most moving experiences of my trip was seeing the original Star-Spangled Banner in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In case you need a history refresher, our national anthem has its origins in the War of 1812, a “Second War of Independence” which is hardly remembered nearly 200 years later. Our young nation then fought our former colonial ruler, and the British dealt a serious blow to America when its troops sacked the District of Columbia. They burned the White House, the Capitol, and the Library of Congress, forcing American troops to make a decisive stand at Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

Baltimore was then our nation’s third-largest city, and at the head of the Chesapeake Bay it was a port of substantial commerce whose wharves and warehouses the British coveted. On September 13, 1814, the attack came on Fort McHenry, and the Americans dug in, surviving an onslaught of bombardments for 25 solid hours. As the morning sun rose on the 14th, our flag still flew proudly from the fort’s mast, a 30-foot by 42-foot ensign that defiantly waved as weary British forces retreated.

The caption reads "A VIEW of the BOMBARDM...

A VIEW of the BOMBARDMENT of Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, by the British fleet. (Image via Wikipedia.)

“By the dawn’s early light,” a lawyer named Francis Scott Key was being held aboard a British ship, trying to negotiate a release of American prisoners. When he saw the Star-Spangled Banner “ever yet wave” that morning, he was inspired to compose a poem commemorating the American victory. It was an immediate hit, published throughout the country and set to music, eventually becoming our national anthem.

The 15-star, 15-stripe

Early historical photo of the original 'Star-Spangled Banner' which inspired Francis Scott Key, from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division in Washington, D.C. (Image via Wikipedia.)

As fortune would have it, the original flag that served as Key’s muse at Fort McHenry has been restored and rests on display in Washington, D.C. Made by Mary Pickersgill with her family and a servant, it has proven resilient though fragile. So popular was the flag in the 19th century that clippings were made from it as souvenirs, reducing its size and costing it one of its stars. There were 15 stars—and 15 stripes—on the flag, one for each of the states which comprised the Union at that time: the 13 original states plus Vermont and Kentucky. (It was only later decided to keep the flag’s stripes at 13 and instead add only stars for each new state’s admission – to make the 50 stars we now know.)

Seeing the original Star-Spangled Banner inspired me to see Fort McHenry in Baltimore, too, so before I returned home from BWI, I drove the short distance from the airport. Even today Baltimore Harbor is a hotbed of commercial activity, with industrial buildings and container ships framing the scene. From the massive earthen defenses of the fort and the cannonade aimed out into the bay, one can imagine the valiant stand America made with our massive flag flying as a rallying symbol against British might.

A large 15-star and 15-stripe flag still waves proudly from the fort, and the exhibits include Key’s original manuscript with strikeout editing. A stirringly narrated film at the visitor center leaves nary a dry eye in the room, swelling viewers with pride in our troops’ courageous stand. It culminates dramatically in a screen lifting to reveal the flag flying in the fort courtyard, as a rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays. I know that I will never feel the same way again in hearing our national anthem; never have I felt more proud to be an American!

Aerial view of the star-shaped Fort McHenry. (Image via National Park Service.)

So inspired was I by my visit that I bought a flag at the gift shop (they sell both the current 50-star flag as well as the 1814 version that flies at the fort). As if acquiring that keepsake alone was not enough, they offer to fly it at the fort and give you a hand-signed certificate commemorating it! My eyes lit up in childlike wonder … how could I refuse that kind of opportunity?

I walked reverently out to the flag mast with the park ranger escort, who insisted that I clip on the flag and hoist it up myself. Some visitors at that moment felt the same patriotic pride and graciously offered to take my camera and photograph the event. Now I have a memento that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

So if you’ve ever wondered about whether there’s anything worth seeing in Baltimore, wonder no more.  And, courtesy of Southwest Airlines, you can make it there non-stop from SDIA. If you visit, you just might come back to the West Coast with a heaping helping of American pride “that our flag was still there”!

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Exercise and eating right made easy

From left, Jon and Rich from the Airport Authority's Marketing Department and Steve from its Noise Mitigation Department break a sweat in the new employee gym at San Diego International Airport.

A year ago, I wrote about the Airport Authority’s employee Fitness Focus Program and how those of us who work for the Airport Authority can rack up redeemable points-for-prizes through physical activity.  A year later, we’re not only going strong, but we’ve really kicked into high gear!

What better way to get into shape than doing so at work?  Never fear, excuse-makers:  if you can’t get to a gym, it has come to you!  As part of staff relocations that facilitate our ongoing Green Build improvements, the second floor of the Commuter Terminal was recently finished out as employee workspace, and these new digs feature a workout room complete with machines and free weights.

If you’d prefer the great outdoors, there are employees who make the rounds through the airport and Harbor Island along mapped walking routes, particularly during their lunch breaks.

Stationary bikes ... with a view of the airfield.

And speaking of eating, isn’t that the complement to fitness activity?  Fear not, that’s covered, too!  The Airport Authority offers employees the option of participating in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program that provides locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables to participating subscribers.  This semimonthly service delivers right to the Airport Authority and comes courtesy of J. R. Organics, a fourth-generation farm in Valley Center.

And should you fear about indulging a little too much when you eat, the Airport Authority even has on-site meetings of Weight Watchers to help staff maintain a healthy balance in personal nutrition.

Recently, the San Diego Business Journal gave the Airport Authority fourth place in a competition of 50 finalists for the region’s healthiest employer, in the medium-size organization category.  Regardless of any awards, the Airport Authority is aiming to be number one in the health of its employees!

With all that we offer, what more could you ask for?  Massages?  Well, word is that Human Resources is looking into that option too!  Stay tuned … and stay healthy!

Special thanks to Sharon in the Marketing Department for taking the gym pictures.

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