News Releases

March 25, 2009


SANTA ANA, Calif. - As part of John Wayne Airport's current Vi Smith Concourse Gallery exhibition, four hang gliders designed between 1972 and 2005 have been installed above the baggage carousels in the Thomas F. Riley Terminal. "Orange County: Birthplace of Modern Hang Gliding" is the title of this exhibit featuring photography and video celebrating the graceful sport of hang gliding, which has earned a reputation as another form of aviation. The exhibit can be seen in display cases across from Gates 1 - 4 and 11 - 14 and the location of the hang gliders is visible to both passengers and visitors to the Riley Terminal.

Two hang glider soaring high above in the blue sky

John Heiney and Dave Freund flying a close formation near Lake Elsinore, CA.

Wills Wing Falcon suspended in the JWA baggage claim area

The Wills Wing T2 on display at John Wayne Airport was designed in 2005 and built for maximum competition and cross-country performance for the most serious and highly skilled pilots. The T2 has an exceptionally high level of aerodynamic efficiency and in July 2008, Dustin Martin flew 410 miles on a T2 in Texas.

The exhibition is guest curated by Owen Morse, an avid hang glider pilot, and will be on display through May 15th. "As a professional juggler, I have a great appreciation for how things fly through the air! For me, nothing is more beautiful to watch than the path of a modern hang glider carving through the sky. I'm thrilled to share how beautiful modern hang gliders are in both form, and function," said Morse.

Hang gliding began in Orange County on May 23, 1971 when a group of flight enthusiasts assembled with home-made flying devices to celebrate the 123rd birthday of Otto Lilienthal, a German flight pioneer. Propelled by the ocean breezes of Newport, the birth of modern hang gliding began.

Shortly thereafter, brothers Bob and Chris Wills of Orange County designed and built the first "Wills Wing" hang glider. In 1973 they launched their own business with the same name that has become the largest hang glider manufacturing company in the world. More information can be found at and by visiting John Wayne Airport's Web site at

John Wayne Airport (SNA) is a self-supporting enterprise, owned and operated by the County of Orange, serves nearly nine million passengers annually and is governed by the five-member Orange County Board of Supervisors.