A Biography of T.L. Wardlaw, Jr. (1915-1977)-‘KC Terror’ Model Kit Designer

Return to kits for sale

By Sylvia Diane Wardlaw, Edited by Alan Bussie Google+ profile

Editors Notes – During the Golden Age of model aviation (1930s-1940s), the wood and tissue flying model aircraft was king. As rubber power yielded to gas in the mid 1930s, model aircraft design became more and more critical. The basics were well known, but gas power added numerous complications. The now-much-heavier aircraft needed to climb steeply in a stable fashion during the short but powerful motor run. During the rush for maximum altitude, it had to withstand the forces of the higher relative winds and the vibrations of the engine. When the engine stopped, the plane was required to suddenly fly level and and display a stable, high glide ratio flight pattern – one suitable for catching thermals. The men who could create successful designs from scratch were among the few, and there names are well known – Walt Good, Carl Goldberg, Joe Koval and Henry Struck, just to name a few. Now, thanks to Diane, we have the history of the creator of the Kansas City Terror. Alan BussieGoogle+ profile


Thomas Lamar Wardlaw, Jr. was born in Columbia, South Carolina March 28, 1915. His father got him started on airplanes when he was about 6 years old and so from an early age he was interested in aviation. By the time he was 11 years (1926) old he was building his own flying models. This soon became a passion for model airplanes and he was building them and also teaching others. While still living in Columbia he had a model airplane camp group where he taught young boys to build models.

T.L. Wardlaw, Jr. standing center, with the boys club

As a young man he enrolled at the Parrish Flying Service. He studied there from July 1934 and received his wings in February of 1937. Once receiving their licenses, pilots needed to build flying hours – and the best way to do that was as a flight instructor. Thomas served as instructor at Pee Dee Air Service until April 1938 and at Charlotte Flying Service until June of 1939. In September of that year he signed on with the Hudson Flying Service, also as an instructor. One of his students was a girl named LaVerne, who was to become his wife in May of 1940. His log book shows that he soloed her to get her pilots license.

tlw8.jpg tlw5.jpg

T.L. Wardlaw’s Topper. LaVerne is holding the Ohlson 23 powered model, circa 1940.

While working at Hudson, Thomas studied and received his instrument rating at the Dallas Aviation School. He applied to TWA (which was then called Transcontinental Western Air) and soon started working for them in Chicago, Ill., where he and LaVerne were married.

tlw1.jpg tlw14.jpg

Mr. Wardlaw at TWA and one of the Connies that he flew

He then asked for a transfer to Kansas City, Mo. where they lived in an apartment and had their first child there in 1942. That was me, Sylvia Diane Wardlaw. We subsequently moved to North Kansas City, Mo. and my father was flying out of that airport.

All these years he was building model airplanes and flying them every chance he had. In 1946 he designed the K.C. Terror. The success of this model encouraged him to have it manufactured at the Missouri Model Aircraft Co., located at in North Kansas City, Mo. The box states that at this time he had 20 years experience as a model builder and 11 years as a pilot – no mean feat in that day. The kit contained a entry form to a contest for the Terror – whoever had the highest flight time during the year would win the trophy shown on the box top.



Here are the specifications on the Terror-

Engine Size – Class “B” or Small Class “C” (.23 to .305)

Flying Weight – 27 ounces

Wing Span – 62 inches

Wing Area – 372 square inches

tlw7b.jpg tlw9.jpg

Two more of his aircraft models

My father worked for TWA for many years. In the early 1950s our entire family became Christians after attending hearing the Gospel at a Good News Club meeting. He then applied to go to K.C. Bible College where he got his certificate to preach and was a minister of the Gospel for many years. His passion for building flying building model planes continued until he retired in 1977. In that year my parents moved to their summer place in Ft. Myers, Florida. Two months later he had a heart attack and passed away. His work and life was a great inspiration to many people!

tlw6.jpg tlw11.jpg

T.L. Wardlaw, Jr. 1915-1977

Return to kits for sale