February 7, 2024

Remembering Steve Wendt

It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the passing of our friend and mentor to many, Steve Wendt. Flight School co-manager, Billy Vaughn, shares his written obituary for the former Kitty Hawk Kites hang gliding instructor and pillar of the hang gliding community.

Our friend, mentor, and long-time hang gliding professional colleague Steve Wendt of Blue Sky hang gliding passed away suddenly on January 25th, 2024 from an unknown medical event. Steve (known by many as “Coach”) was the manager of Kitty Hawk Kites hang gliding school from 1983-1986, and his sudden passing leaves a huge void in our hearts, and in the entire hang gliding world.

Steve started flying in 1975, building his first glider from a kit and teaching
himself to fly. He went on to become a professional educator, teaching high school math and coaching both wrestling and football. After his time at Kitty Hawk Kites, Steve taught and coached at Manteo high school, and later moved to Harrisonburg, VA where he taught, coached, and started his own hang gliding school, Blue Sky, teaching on weekends and during summers. He was an original founder of Blue Sky Flight Park near Manquin, Va, and took on hang gliding instruction as a full time job again in 1991.

As a hang gliding instructor, Steve’s reputation was second to none. Combining patience with coach-like tough love, Steve emphasized safety above all else, and any student who graduated to flying at high altitude with Steve did so with a very firmly established skill set. Steve utilized a scooter towing system for his low altitude training flights, and though he didn’t invent that method, he perfected it, building and refining many ground based towing winches. Over the course of his career, his student pilots performed well over 100,000 ground based tows without incident. Steve was also an excellent glider mechanic, fluent in the maintenance and repair of hang gliders, and he could sew everything from complex sail repairs to new training glider sails, harnesses, and hang loops.

Steve leaves behind a legacy of hard work and excellence in all his endeavors. He will be greatly missed by all of us who benefitted from his positive influence as a role model, mentor, and coach.
Billy Vaughn, Kitty Hawk Kites Hang Gliding School Manager, Pilot, and Friend

Steve is survived by his family and the many individuals he touched and inspired throughout his life. As a friend to all and a teacher to many, Kitty Hawk Kites is committed to honoring his legacy of teaching the world to fly. He will be sorely missed for his hand in building and strengthening the 50 year heritage of KHK. Fly fly fly.

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  1. Dave Kittle March 25, 2024 at 8:27 am - Reply

    Sorry to hear of this loss of Steve. I traveled to VA for a training lesson last yr to meet him. Wonderful experience

    Just seeing this notice.

  2. JJK February 13, 2024 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    How do you get away with calling them kites. I starting hsnging back in the mid 70’s. Finished with an Oly 160. Loved that kite. Anyway I digress, Wen ever I stop to talk to some flyers they seem to take major umbrage with the term Kite. I hate to tell them that I used to refer to them as HangSticks also, I love to see that the sport is still going. My first kite was a Flexi Flyer Eipper 2. Rogallo with two battens, Went flying Soboba was an awesome day I thot. 3 or 4 steps and push out slightly. Elevator up. More like stall out. I never did that again. B4 the cast was off I had my Oly. I flew all over SoCal loved it. I never got a hang rating, never asked just flew. My favorite place close to home was Point Fermin San Pedro. That was an awesome place to soar for hours on end. Had to hop a little wall to launch off of a 300 foot tsll shear cliff.Aa friend on each wing one holding the nose cables. You had to trust the guy on your nose cables. He would nervously ask whenever you’re ready. I’d say lets do it he simply dropped to his knees as I lifgted the nose a degree or two and in 15 seconds at tops you were 300 ft above take off. The greatest thrill of my life at least with clothes on. Fly Safe
    P.S. I left the states 6 years ago. I saw what was coming down. I guess I’m not a woke MoFro. Actually the power and control my government seemed to wield with no restraint. I now and will live in Belize, I couldn’t be happier. I got a hair up my backside when I saw a new Wills Wing Falcon 190 for sale. Read a story of boat tow launching I figure that would work down here, Take some people tandem. I learned from the Late Great Jack Britton “The Hang Glider Shop” Beach Blvd. Anyone with info on the tow system Steve Wendt got to work pretty proficiently.

  3. Doug Frank February 7, 2024 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Thank you Billy! Very well said. I’m still in shock. He is missed by many!!

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