The Tommy Plane is the first thing that catches any visitors eye in our Exhibit Hall. This original Thomas Morse Scout S-4B, production no. 191 was first built in Ithaca by the Thomas Morse Aircraft Corporation in 1918. One of a few hundred that were manufactured, and for a time were used to train every WWI pilot.
Tommy is on permanent loan to the museum from the Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation (IAHF), who spent 14 years, and untold number of hours restoring the plane. Our Tommy is currently the only Thomas Morse Scout restored to full flight capacity anywhere in the world.
On September 29th 2018, Tommy flew over the Finger Lakes for the first time this century, with an audience of more than 3000 people below.
When members of IAHF first got it into their minds to look for a Thomas Morse Scout to restore in 2005, there were only 15 known planes surviving in the world. IN 2010 they caught a lucky break, a Dr. William N. Thibault of Newport Beach, California, happened to own a vintage Tommy, and his son lived in Ithaca.
It had been Thibault's dream to restore the Tommy Plane, but he hadn't found the time to do it, and he generously gifted his plane to he IAHF conservators for them to work on this shared dream.
IAHF members spent the next seven years completely dismantling and re-building the plane, scouring the earth for the parts and knowledge needed to complete this vintage machine. Air & Space magazine wrote a wonderful article in 2018 detailing the restoration process which can be read here.
We have no immediate plans to fly the plane again, but IAHF conservators perform engine maintenance each year to keep Tommy flight ready, should the right opportunity arise.
Thomas Morse Factory Workers - 1918
The IAHF Restoration Crew - Spring 2019
On September 29th 2018, after 14 years of restoration Tommy flew above the Finger Lakes for the first time this century.
The flight marked the culmination of IAHF’s decade-long “Tommy Come Home” campaign. The plane was flown by Ken Cassens, a pilot from Rhinebeck New York familiar with flying rotor engine planes.
Over 3,000 people gathered at the Ithaca Regional Airport to watch Tommy fly. The plane is now on long-term loan from IAHF to the History Center in Tompkins County.
Learn more about the centennial flight from this 2018 Ithaca Voice article here.