Saturday afternoon, those in the City of Ithaca got to experience history. This, as a plane designed and built there 100 years ago returned to the skies.

“Tommy” is a 1918 Thomas Morse S4B. He’s Ithaca born and bred. Nearly 2,000 people came out to the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport to see him take to the skies once again.

15 years of hard work leading to the moment everyone had waited for, as “Tommy” soared high above the crowd, powered by an original 80HP LeRhone rotary engine. 

Pilot Ken Cassens from the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome was at the controls, “It flies like just about any of the airplanes of this period, they’re not that stable,” said Cassens. “You have to fly them constantly.”

“Tommy” was donated to the Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation by Dr. William Thibault of San Diego. Prior to that, he had his own plans. “My original idea of restoring it and then flying it sorta went by the wayside,” said Thibault.

Don Funke, the President of the IAHF, suggested donating it — with the intent of restoring it and flying it. The rest, as they say, is history.

“The job that they have done here in absolutely perfect, said Thibault. “It’s probably a better airplane than what actually came out of the factory a hundred years ago.”

“All we had to do was spark it and everybody moved in and became a part of it and put unbelievable resources into it, whether it was money, time talents, all of that,” said Don Funke, President of the Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation.

Following Saturday’s flight, Tommy will be disassembled in the coming weeks and will eventually go on permanent display at his new home at the Tompkins Center for History and Culture in downtown Ithaca. The center is slated to open in 2019.