Glider was being stored in a hanger at F.R. Steuart Airport in Henning
By Chad Koenen
A World War II era glider is getting a new lease on life. The Schweizer TG-3A Glider has been housed in a hanger at the F.R. Steuart Field in Henning for approximately 30 years. The glider remained at the local airport as its owner, the late Doug Swanson, and members of the airport group weighed what it should do with the historic aircraft.
The glider was in several pieces last week as the wings were detached from the body. And while the glider didn’t have a cover, the historical significance of the glider with wooden wings was something the group couldn’t part with, despite the overwhelming restoration project.
“It’s literally hung on that wall for 30 years,” said Grant Smith of the glider hanging on the back wall of a hanger.
As the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait. And that is perhaps the best way to describe the new destination for the old glider. A few years ago Jerry Ryan, who is a volunteer at the Minnesota Military Museums, attended the Henning Fly-in breakfast. At the time, he was talking to a local resident about a helicopter that was being housed in a hanger.
The two people went to look at the helicopter and that’s when Ryan noticed the historic glider hanging up on the wall. The glider belonged to the late Doug Swanson, who always wanted to fix up the glider, but passed away several years ago. A group of representatives at the Henning airport discussed fixing up the glider through the years, but it never came to fruition.
Ryan had the ability to fix up the glider, which is rare due to the fact the wings are made out of wood.
“There are a few in a few museums, but none that are flying that I know about,” said Ryan of the Schweizer TG-3A Glider.
In fact, Ryan said there are just six wooden winged gliders from the WWII era like in that are on display in museums. Most of the aircraft deteriorated over the years, as one would assumed when the wings are made out of wood and not kept in a dry location.
With the help of representatives from the Minnesota Military Museums, the glider was loaded onto a trailer and will eventually be the feature aircraft near the entrance of a new building at Fort Ripley near Little Falls, Minn.
“This will be the featured plane when you walk in the door,” said Dan Broten.
Knowing that there would be a new building at Fort Ripley in the near future, Ryan reached out to his superiors to see if the wooden winged glider from Henning would be something they would be interested in as a focal point for the building. The answer he received was a resounding yes.
“I talked to my boss to see if the museum would want it and he said sure,” said Ryan.
Ryan estimated it could take up to 1 1/2 years to restore the glider, which will include putting a new cover over the shell of the aircraft. It will then be placed near the entrance of the Minnesota Military Museum. The glider was donated by Juanita Swanson and her late husband Doug.
Until that time, members of the Henning airport group will wait and dream about what the finished product will look like after having the shell of the glider in one of their own hangers for the better part of three decades.