Secret Of The Plane

Reconstructing A Piece Of Local History

Gary Leonard, pictured at left, and Charles Scholeno, made models of the TDR-1, the pilotless plane also known as a drone made in Jamestown during World War II. Neither knew the other was making a model of the TDR-1 until both were almost finished. Submitted photo

Sometimes writers, whether they write books, blogs, or newspaper columns, do not know if readers are entertained, inspired, educated, or bored. Getting feedback from readers is nice.

Recently I found out that not only had one of my earlier “Hometown History” columns educated, but had inspired two men to try their hand at building a model of the TDR-1. This was “Jamestown’s secret warplane” which had been assembled at the American Aviation Corporation’s plant on Airport Hill during World War II. Many for the wooden parts for the plane had been manufactured by the area’s wood furniture factories.

The secret of the plane was that it was pilotless and remotely controlled (a drone) during combat operations. And it was disposable being pilotless and made from, at the time, less expensive wood.

It is wonderful to see the results of one article about the TDR-1. The two men are Gary Leonard and Charles Scholeno. Both of them have been involved in flying model airplanes for many years. Both men wrote a little bit about themselves and the model airplanes. I will paraphrase what they wrote so we all know more about them, model airplanes, and their TDR-1s.

Gary Leonard says that he got involved with model aviation at the age of 8 because he enjoyed watching things, like birds and airplanes, fly. His first project was building kites out of cut branches from trees and some string. Then he used The Post-Journal paper for covering material, and flour and water paste for glue to hold it together.

His next venture was experimenting with paper airplanes and always trying different designs. When he was in third grade, he made a really good one and took it to school to show it off. When he launched it, it flew really good but landed in the teacher’s hair.

When he was made to stay after school that day, he had to make thirty paper airplanes, one for each classmate.

He went on to say that the teacher thought she was punishing him, but he got pretty good at making paper airplanes! He continued by flying “half A control line” airplanes which led to flying bigger control line airplanes. An auction offered him the opportunity to purchase a radio-control radio for airplanes and he has been flying radio control airplanes since then. He builds most of the airplanes from scratch using a picture as a guide. He makes every part.

Charles Scholeno started flying model airplanes at the age of five.

His mother bought him a rubber band powered plane at the Ben Franklin 5 & 10 cent store in Falconer. He continued flying some type of model airplane during his next 82 years and plans to continue.

He says that many radio controlled airplane models can be purchased ready made today, but he still prefers to build his own from scratch. Many of his planes over the years have been of his own design, including the one that is featured on the cover of a world-wide model airplane magazine a few years ago. He now has over 65 radio control models on hand and has built hundreds of models of many sizes, from small to 1/4 and 1/3 size of the real airplane. And he still loves to fly them. He also says that he knows of no model kit available for the TDR-1 drone. So when he also saw the article in The Post-Journal, he decided he should build a model TDR-1.

Both men started on their models without knowing that the other friend was also building a model TDR-1. Both have now been completed as shown in the accompanying photograph. I have not heard if the models have been flown yet. Knowing that my article inspired the building of these models is very gratifying.


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