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.
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.