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Orange County ITINERARY

Terminally Hip

John Wayne airs plain facts on aviation architecture.


A ticket out of here isn't the only reason to visit the airport. Try taking an airport art walk. Right now John Wayne Airport is hosting an exhibition focusing on aviation architecture and design throughout the Thomas F. Riley Terminal, and the cushy Admirals Club is showing paintings of . . . boats! And those aren't the only shows. Between tableaux, the people-watching is a perfect 10; kids like plane-watching too.


Believe it or not, John Wayne Airport has mounted 50 exhibitions since 1990. On display through April is "Building for Air Travel: Architecture and Design for Commercial Aviation," a photo display organized by the Art Institute of Chicago. The show can be seen opposite gates 1-4 and 11-14, at security checkpoints and at baggage claim 1-2.

It's a big terminal; wear comfortable shoes.

The show includes fascinating historical tidbits. The first passenger airlines in Europe were introduced just after World War I; comparable service in the United States didn't take wing until 1925. Lufthansa's stylized cranes in flight were the first airline logo.

The first stewardesses, circa 1930, were registered nurses who could allay passengers' fears and help in medical emergencies. Between the wars, airline interiors often drew on railroad imagery, combining coach cars with sleeping, dining and lounge cars in one fuselage.

Progress, shmogress--bring back the sleeping berths in that 1946 Boeing 377 Stratocruiser!

Did you know that 50 airports once served Los Angeles? Cecil B. DeMille built three airfields (for his Mercurey airline) around 1918. The Grand Central Terminal in Glendale (1928) originally resembled a mission. Some later terminals, in a race toward a terminally modern future, achieved a kitschy "Lost in Space" look.

Photo captions indicate that many of the buildings have been demolished; one intriguing caption says "status unknown." (How do you lose a terminal?)

Take the elevator up to American Airlines' Admirals Club. Ignore the execs on phones and enjoy paintings of lonely boats by Laurie Regan Chase, an artist for Princess Cruise Lines. Coming April 13-May 29 are Orange County landscapes by Marinus Welman. Both shows are organized by the Left Bank Gallery in Laguna Beach.


The airport has a small food court. For sit-down service, consider the Orange Bar and Grill; specialties include Maui Waui soft tacos and a Pesto Pesto grilled chicken sandwich (each $7.95).


Near the food court is an exhibit called "The Air We Breathe." Its timeline begins with a "gas attack" July 26, 1943, when a pall of smoke and gases descended on downtown L.A. The gas attacks continue, the display says: "The new menace was smog." On the bright side, cleaner burning gasoline and electric cars have since been introduced.

The California Kidz shop offers toddlers' fleece-lined flight jackets, Top Gun Pilot T-shirts, Lego-like airplane models and an "Eating Is Fun" airplane tray and accessories.

Next door, Caterina's Candy caters to those with a sweet tooth with a large selection that includes chocolate roses in several colors and candies including gummy teeth, gummy fried eggs and gummy octopus and a new flavor called mint lentil.

The aviation exhibition continues down in baggage claim.

Before you depart the lower level, say, "Howdy, Pilgrim!" to sculptor Robert Summers' 9-foot-tall bronze statue of the airport's namesake, "John Wayne, American Legend." The statue was created at the Hoka Hey Foundry in Dublin. Dublin, Texas, that is.


John Wayne Airport's Thomas F. Riley Terminal

1) Concourses A & B

Departure (upper) level, (714) 252-5171.

Gate areas 6 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.

2) Admirals Club

Mezzanine, (714) 852-5470.

5:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday.

3) Orange Grill

Departure (upper) level, (714) 252-6110.

6 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday.

4) California Kidz

Departure (upper) level, (714) 252-6144.

5:15 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Friday and 5:15 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday.

5) Caterina's Candy

Departure (upper) level, (714) 261-8464.

5:45 a.m.-10:15 p.m. daily.

6) Baggage Claim

Arrival (lower) level, (714) 252-5171.

6 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.

Parking: Paid parking in lots adjacent to the Thomas F. Riley Terminal; $1 per hour, maximum $11 per day. Additional lot at Main Street between MacArthur Boulevard and Redhill Avenue with free shuttle every 15 minutes; $1 per hour, maximum $7 per day.

Buses: OCTA Bus Nos. 39, 61, 71 and 306 serve John Wayne Airport on weekdays.

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