Jenny Taught a Generation of Americans How to Fly
When we think of the rise of flight in the United States the much loved Curtiss JN-4 is at the top of the list. It ws the primary trainer aircraft and had a lifespan which extended long after the Great War ended.
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."
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, was a poor performer, particularly when climbing, because of its excessive weight. The JN-2 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 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 Curtiss factory in Buffalo, NY was the largest airplane factory in the world.
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 in the barnstorming era between the world wars, with the nearly-identical Standard J-1 aircraft often used alongside it. Some were still flying into the 1930s.