The Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" is a series of biplane aircraft built by the Curtiss Aeroplane Company of Hammondsport, New York, later the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. The Curtiss JN series (the common nickname was derived from "JN") was produced as a training aircraft for the U.S. Army although the "Jenny" became the "backbone of American post-war aviation."
Design and development
Curtiss combined the best features of the model J and model N trainers, built for the Army and Navy, and began producing the JN or "Jenny" series of aircraft in 1915. Curtiss only built a limited number of the JN-1 and JN-2 biplanes. The design was commissioned by Glenn Curtiss from Englishman Benjamin D. Thomas, formerly of the Sopwith Aviation Company.
The JN-2, deficient in performance, particularly climbing, because of excessive weight, was an equal-span biplane with ailerons controlled by a shoulder yoke located in the aft cockpit. The improved JN-3 incorporated unequal spans with ailerons only on the upper wings, controlled by a wheel. In addition, a foot bar was added to control the rudder.
The 1st Aero Squadron of the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps received eight JN-2s at San Diego in July 1915. The Squadron was transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in August to work with the Field Artillery School, during which one JN-2 crashed with a fatality. The pilots of the squadron met with its commander, Capt. Benjamin D. Foulois, to advise that the JN-2 was unsafe because of low power, shoddy construction, lack of stability, and overly sensitive tail rudders. Foulois and his executive officer Capt. Thomas D. Milling disagreed, and flights continued until a second JN-2 crashed on September 5. The JN-2 was grounded until October 14, when it was modified to become a JN-3, two new models of which the squadron received in early September. In March 1916 the eight JN-3s were deployed to Mexico for aerial observation during the Pancho Villa Expedition of 1916 – 1917.
The Curtiss JN-4 is possibly North America's most famous World War I aircraft. It was widely used during World War I to train beginning pilots. The Canadian version was the JN-4(Can), also known as the "Canuck", and was built with a control stick instead of the Deperdussin control wheel used in the regular JN-4 model, as well as usually having a somewhat more rounded rudder outline than the American version. The U.S. version was called "Jenny". It was a twin-seat (student in front of instructor) dual control biplane. Its tractor prop and maneuverability made it ideal for initial pilot training with a 90 horsepower (67 kW) Curtiss OX-5 V8 engine giving a top speed of 75 miles per hour (121 km/h) and a service ceiling of 6,500 feet (2,000 m).
The British used the JN-4 (along with the Avro 504) for their primary World War I trainer; Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd produced them in Canada. Many Royal Flying Corps pilots earned their wings on the JN-4, both in Ontario and in Texas.
Most of the 6,813 built were unarmed, although some had machine guns and bomb racks for advanced training. None saw active service. After World War I, hundreds were sold on the civilian market, one to Charles Lindbergh as his first aircraft. The plane's slow speed and stability made it ideal for stunt flying and aerobatic displays. Some were still flying into the 1930s.
The Inverted Jenny is a United States postage stamp of 1918 in which a Curtiss JN4 aircraft in the center of the design was accidentally printed upside-down. It is one of the most well-known stamps in philately.
About 50 Jennys survive in museums and with private owners.
Data from The Encyclopedia of World Aircraft
Published - July 2009
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