Orange County lies so close to the glitz and glam of Los Angeles that it isn’t any wonder that its regional airport is named after a celebrity.

John Wayne Airport is located in the county seat of Santa Ana. The legendary actor lived in Newport Beach, which is located in the county, and the airport was named after him once he died in 1979. A large statue at the airport of John Wayne stands in the Thomas F. Riley terminal.

But long before then, the airport was nothing more than an airstrip. This was back in 1923 when an airstrip was constructed on the grounds where the airport stands by Eddie Martin, who owned a flying school.

The county bought the land in 1939 and still owns it to this day. During World War II, the area was used as a military base and was only returned to the county with the stipulation that it be open to all kinds of aviation use.

By the 1950s, the airport served as a place where residents of Southern California could go to fly between Los Angeles and Phoenix via San Diego. A decade later, Bonanza jets started flying out of Orange County to Phoenix and Las Vegas.

In 1967, Air California started nonstop flights to San Francisco using Electras. That was the same year that the Eddie Martin Terminal was constructed to accommodate the 400,000 passengers that came through the airport every year.

This 22,000 square foot terminal was remodeled just a few years later and created two passenger holdings areas, a baggage claim area, and terminal annex.

As the size of the airport increased, so did the number of nonstop flights. Passengers could fly out of John Wayne Airport and go to Salt Lake City, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, and New York.

Today, the airport is larger than ever before and services more than eight million passengers every year. These passengers can fly to any number of cities including international destinations like Vancouver, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

The airport services major airlines like Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, AirTran Airways, United Airlines, United Express, US Airways, and WestJet.

John Wayne Airport is also equipped to handle private jet charter. Two full-serve fixed base operators also service private aviation customers and offer everything these passengers could possibly want.

This is especially beneficial for fans of nearby Balboa Island. Visitors from all over the country, and globe for that matter, can fly into John Wayne Airport and travel into nearby Balboa Island.