August/September Business View Magazine

132 133 Hall says that a century ago, Ithaca was the world’s leading airplane producer, as well as a leading producer of motion pictures be- fore Hollywood’s rise. But for both industries, changing times meant changing fortunes for Ithaca. As he explains it, just as with the mov- ie business, Ithaca lost out to an entity that would also become known, worldwide. “The Thomas-Morse Scout was owned by the United States government and when a second round of airplanes was ordered, we lost the bid here in Ithaca to a startup that had access to Sitka spruce, which is what most of the air- plane was made out of,” he says. “That startup was the Boeing Airplane Company.” The city’s first airfield, the Ithaca Municipal Airport, is believed to be only the second air- field in New York State. It was located near the ITHACA TOMPKINS REGIONAL AIRPORT MIKE HALL Airport Manager inlet to Cayuga Lake. “You can imagine, if you’ve seen the Finger Lakes, the land is 1,000 feet above the lake, so it was down in a little trench and not ideally suited at all for growth,” recalls Hall. “But it served the community during the early years of aviation and that included when (aviation pioneer) Glenn Curtiss was flying just down the road.” In the years following World War II, Ithaca Tompkins moved to its current, hilltop location, which was an airfield that Cornell, with its Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, constructed during the conflict. “Cornell granted the Airport to the county in the ‘50s, and, gradually, flight activity moved from the old airport down on the lake to the new airport up on the hill,” explains Hall. During those early days, the airfield was home to Robinson Aviation, which later became Mo- hawk Airlines, the precursor of American Airlines, Allegheny Airlines, and US Airways, says Hall. “Mo- hawk Airlines was really founded here in Ithaca to serve the interests of Cornell University,” he says. “They had DC-3s flying around upstate New York, much as American had a decade earlier, and then Convairs and what have you, up to the current jet service we have through our legacy carriers, United, American, and Delta.” Ithaca Tompkins remained a small municipal airport, owned by Tompkins County, throughout the 1950s. But activity there picked up as the commercial airline industry began to flourish during the 1960s and today, there are about 100,000 enplanements, annually. “So that’s where we are today; three legacy