News Releases

September 15, 2010


SANTA ANA, Calif. - Tomorrow, September 16, 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Thomas F. Riley Terminal. Since 1990, more than 150 million passengers have passed through the Riley Terminal. The terminal building opened in 1990 and was named after Fifth District County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, who was instrumental in negotiating the Settlement Agreement which allowed for additional facilities and operational capacity while establishing landmark environmental protections for the local community.


The airport began in 1923 when aviation pioneer Eddie Martin opened a flying school on land he leased from The Irvine Company. The County of Orange acquired the land in 1939 and the airfield became a public airport. In 1942 the federal government leased the Airport from the County for use during WWII. Regular airline service began with Bonanza Airlines in 1952, and in 1967 a new Terminal building was constructed and dedicated by then Governor Ronald Reagan. By the 1980s, the rise in commercial airline service moved the County to begin planning for additional commercial passenger facilities, resulting in construction of the Thomas F. Riley Terminal.

The Thomas F. Riley Terminal, circa 2007
Thomas F. Riley Terminal, circa 2007

The Riley Terminal, which opened to the public on September 16, 1990, was designed as a single 337,000 square-foot, linear building divided by a steel-encased and glass architectural feature known as the 'rotated square'. On either side of the 'rotated square' are two separate Terminals – A and B. When the Riley Terminal opened in 1990, the Airport was serving approximately 4.5 million passengers per year. Consistent with the terms of the 1985 Settlement Agreement, the Terminal was built to accommodate up to 8.4 million passengers annually.


As the Thomas F. Riley Terminal celebrates 20 years of service, John Wayne Airport is well into the construction of the Airport Improvement Program, which will bring a third terminal and 2,000 additional parking spaces to the Airport. Scheduled to open to the public in late 2011and in accordance with amendments to the Settlement Agreement, the new facilities are designed to accommodate 10.8 million passengers per year.

In recognition of this milestone, JWA staff will be in the Terminal from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. greeting passengers and handing out small commemorative items.

View our historical photo gallery here. Please contact Jenny Wedge at for use of the photos.

John Wayne Airport (SNA) is a self-supporting enterprise owned and operated by the County of Orange and serves nearly nine million passengers annually. The Airport is served by 10 commercial passenger airlines serving 20 nonstop destinations in the United States and Canada.

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