13.3.07

MAKING THOSE CONNECTIONS. In a February interview with the Northern Star, I mentioned the military origins of the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport. The reporter subsequently followed up with an investigation of our progenitor of the cruise missile.

During World War II, an airplane was made in DeKalb that was so top secret, it was not declassified until the 1960s.

Imagine a wooden plane loaded with a 500-pound bomb and a television camera in its nose. Then, imagine a person in another airplane watching a TV, aiming the plane into a target.

"The reason it was so top secret is the television camera. It was totally built as a remote control plane, so it would actually take off from a dead stop on the runway," said historic preservationist Roger Keys.

The technology of remotes and joysticks available today was not around in the 1930s and '40s, so a different method was used.

"To control this radio-controlled [plane], they used a telephone dial, an old, little rotary telephone dial. They would dial, like, 3, and it would tell the plane to do something. [Dial], like, a 6, and it would tell the plane to do something else."

I learned about this aircraft at the June breakfast fly-in a few years ago.

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