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Glider Restoration Project Update

By Keith Uhlig, Wausau Daily Herald (reprinted with permission)  

Syd Cohen

Syd Cohen

Syd Cohen of Wausau, Wisconsin, holds up models of a Waco CG-4A and a C-47. A World War II-era glider, the Waco often would be towed by a C-47. The owner of a real, life-sized version of the glider used it first as a camper-trailer, then as a hunting shack. Later, relatives of the man donated it to the Menominee Range Historical Museum in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Between 2005 and 2009, Cohen and other aviation buffs from the Wausau area helped restore the glider. The mostly restored fuselage of a Waco CG-4A was loaded on a flatbed trailer in November 2009 for transport to Iron Mountain, Michigan, about 2,400 hours during the course of four and a half years restoring the World War II-era glider.

A retired Mosinee High School industrial arts teacher, Syd Cohen, 68, of Wausau, Wisconsin, found out about the glider from friend and airplane mechanic Jack Chmiel, who first spotted the bedraggled aircraft in the parking lot of the Menominee Range Historical Museum in Iron Mountain.

The glider had been built during World War II at a Ford Motor Company plant in nearby Kingsford, Michigan, and when the war ended, it was auctioned off. The owner of the glider used it first as a camper-trailer, then as a hunting shack. Later, relatives of the man donated it to the museum.

After Chmiel learned the museum wanted help restoring the glider, he tapped Cohen for the job. It wasn’t long before the glider was moved to the hangar Cohen uses at the Wausau Downtown Airport. Cohen recruited history and aviation buffs from across the region for help, and all told, the group of 65 put in about 4,600 hours on the aircraft. In November of 2009, the glider left Wausau to be completed by restorers in Iron Mountain.

The story will come to an end of sorts July 16, when the completely restored glider and the building in which it will be housed will be dedicated at a 2 p.m. ceremony at the foundation’s museum. Cohen, of course, will be there. “I think I’ll have a lot of pride,” Cohen said. “Well, I’ll be proud that it’s done, [proud of] the fact that we restored history.”

The project fit Cohen. He loves working with tools, and the first airplane he restored was a gleaming 1946 Ercoupe two-seater. Aviation has been a passion of his since he was a kid growing up in Duluth, Minnesota, near a U.S. Air Force base. He and his friends built airplane models, and they wrote to aviation companies for posters of planes. They soaked up any aviation facts they could.

“We were all nuts about flying,” he said. He didn’t know much about gliders, but he learned fast.

“I read everything I could about the gliders.”

Cohen was a bit frustrated when the museum decided to finish the glider in Iron Mountain. There was some wiring to be done and control cables to be installed, but that eased when Cohen realized how much time he was spending on the glider.

“It was a kind of a relief when I realized that I didn’t have to go down to the hangar and work on the glider every day,” he said.

Now he’s happy to see the glider and its history preserved, but he’s not sitting around. Cohen is restoring another Ercoupe airplane.


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