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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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Waves of Appreciation


Left to right, Airport Authority volunteers Naty, Kim, Susie, and Ryan.

On November 11, 2012, Airport Authority employees donated their time and effort toward a volunteer event sponsored by “Waves of Appreciation,” an organization created by Pepperdine University alumni. The paramount goal is to give back and show gratitude to  service men and women as they travel home for the holidays to see their loved-ones.

Approximately 15 Authority employees joined a larger group of volunteers for an afternoon of stuffing 3,500 goody bags of nonperishable food items to be distributed at San Diego International Airport.

Waves of Appreciation partnered with the United Services Organization (USO) at SDIA for the bag distribution, which took place prior to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The bags helped sustain many of the young service members who might have otherwise traveled hungry during the holidays.


And the USO located at SDIA has bragging rights! Ours is the only USO in the United States that distributes these bags of delectable delights ever year. So kudos to the USO and Airport Authority volunteers — way to exhibit that Community Strategy!*

* The Airport Authority’s Community Strategy is “to be a trusted and highly responsive regional agency.”



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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KIPP students visit SDIA and its Quieter Home Program

At right, Quieter Home Program Inspector Jack explains to KIPP students how the program is making homes quieter at the Point Loma Tennis Club condos.

Recently, students from the San Diego charter KIPP: Adelante Preparatory Academy school toured San Diego International Airport and its Quieter Home Program (QHP). Six middle school ‘KIPPsters’ received quite a treat: a Terminals to Tarmac tour lead by Ambassablogger Ryan of the airport’s Strategic Planning Department and Sandra of Airport Planning. After lunch (which included a teambuilding activity of constructing a new airport out of Legos), they met yours truly (I’m the airport’s QHP Coordinator) for a tour of the new QHP showroom and a few homes in construction.

Students from this charter middle school have had the opportunity to visit the airport for the last few years as a result of Ryan’s community involvement with San Diego LEAD; KIPP Adelante was his community project. KIPP Adelante’s slogan is: Work Hard. Be Nice. Dream Big.

KIPPsters learning about the airport.

Students were very interested in the QHP and that it was free to eligible homeowners in defined areas near the airport. The showroom tour included an explanation of the QHP’s acoustic reduction goals, lead by Ambassablogger Sjohnna, who is the QHP Manager.

KIPPsters got to view the products, and experience the acoustic kiosk, giving them a sound understanding of a five-decibel reduction, the goal for any residence. They then boarded a bus — along with Craig, the QHP Construction Manager, and me to tour Point Loma Tennis Club condominium complex, one of the current QHP projects.

Jack and Brandon, Construction Inspectors for QHP, walked the students through the entire construction process. KIPPsters visited homes the contractor opened that day, including one in mid-construction, and one in its final day of construction. Jack and Brandon explained how new acoustic windows are retrofitted and how electrical panels are upgraded for new furnaces and air conditioning. Jack was impressed with the KIPPsters, calling them “attentive, inquisitive and very polite.” Reflect back to the academy’s slogan.

KIPP students enjoying a guided tour of the airport.

KIPPsters then met Whitney, the QHP Homeowner Liaison for the Point Loma Tennis Club. Whitney and I talked about our positions and how continuous communication and great customer service are vital with homeowners throughout the Quieter Home Program process.

On the bus ride back to the Airport, the students talked about the tour; they could not believe the amount of construction that occurs in the 15 days allotted for a project. One student felt it should take longer, perhaps even a year! Ryan, Sandra, Craig and I then quizzed the students about what they had learned that day; the KIPPsters enthusiastically had some great answers.

Freda, the Director of Development at KIPP, thanked the airport staff and the Quieter Home Program for “opening our students’ eyes and feeding their curiosity.”

It was a great day for all!

Work Hard. Be Nice. Dream Big.

Guest Blogger:

Catherine, Program Coordinator for the Quieter Home Program

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.

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.

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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