Turned down for pilot school he began building a motorized model plane with friends while studying oil exploration engineering at university. It didn’t go down well with the authorities. “This was the USSR in the 1970s, and the KGB somehow got it into its head that we were trying to flee the country,” Cohn admits to ISRAEL21c.
Shortly afterwards Cohn, like so many Russian Jews at this time, was told to leave Soviet Russia, and made his way to Israel instead where he began to design and build hang gliders. In 1982, Cohn set up Apco Aviation producing hang gliders and ultralights. Four years later his first generation paraglider hit production.
Today Apco makes parachutes, hang gliders, paragliders, and other accessories, and is located in the seaside town of Caesarea. The company employs 70 people, is one of only a few dozen large-scale manufacturers of recreational aviation equipment, and is considered by its customers to be one of the best.
The company produces thousands of paragliders, harnesses and parachute reserve systems every year, almost all of which are shipped abroad, to the US, Europe, and the Far East. It has over 40 models of paragliders and 13 world records set on APCO gliders, an achievement that hasn’t been equaled by any other paraglider manufacturer.
And, “with the exception of several components made in the Far East requiring special manufacturing techniques, everything we sell is made right here in Israel,” in Apco’s 3, 200 sq. meter plant in Caesarea Cohn says.
Interestingly, while hang gliding and paragliding have an aura of youth about them, Cohn admits that most of his customers are much older – in their 30s and 40s.
“This is not a cheap hobby,” he acknowledges. “It’s not the kind of thing your average 20 year old is going to be able to afford, not to mention the skill, experience and judgment you need to be able to fly safely.”
Still, anyone who is in decent physical shape can fly – and strapped to an Apco glider, you know you’re going to have the time of your life. For Cohn, it’s a fulfillment of all his childhood dreams. Now he can fly whenever he wants.