Orange was born in 1935, in Shildon, County Durham and was educated at St. Mary's Grammar School, in Darlington, and at Hull University. Orange served in the Royal Air Force from 1953 to 1956. In 1962 he went to live in New Zealand and taught History at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch until he retired in 2002. His influence as an air power scholar is well known. His former students include prominent United Kingdom scholars Dr Joel Hayward and Dr Christina Goulter as well as Dr Adam Claasen of Massey University and Dr Andrew Conway of King's College London. Orange is married to Sandra, and has a stepdaughter Sarah.