1917 CURTISS JN-4D “JENNY”

flight-of-jenny[1]One of the most famous of all aircraft is the Curtiss JN-4D, popularly known as the Jenny. More than ninety percent of American pilots trained during the First World War received their primary instruction on the Jenny.

The Jenny, powered by the equally famous Curtiss OX-5 engine, became the principal aircraft flown by barnstormers during the postwar period. Americans, particularly in rural areas, thrilled to the antics of these pilots performing in the aerial circuses that toured the country during the 1920s. For many, the Jenny would be the first airplane that they would see close-up, and those with a few dollars in hand (and their fear in check) typically would make their first flight in a Jenny.

The JN-4D, the definitive design of the JN series, was introduced in June 1917, just one month after the United States entered the First World War. Principal design changes for this model included a control stick substituted for the control wheel, ailerons only on the upper wing, and curved cut-outs on the inner trailing edges of all four wing panels. This last change provided easier cockpit entry and egress.

The aircraft on display was manufactured by Curtiss Aeroplane Company in 1917 or 1918 and shipped to Souther Field, a US Army Air Corp primary training base near Americus, Georgia. Following the end of WWI the Curtiss Jenny aircraft were declared surplus and sold. John Wyche, owner of S&W Airplane Co. of Macon, Georgia, purchased all 160 of the aircraft at Souther Field from the Army for as little as $16 each. In 1923 this Jenny was sold by Wyche, along with dozens of others still new in the box, to Benjamin Bower of Knoxville, Tennessee, who then sold it on to Paramount Pictures for use in the movie industry. In 1941 Paramount sold the airplane to United Air Services and Paul Mantz Air Services, who provided aircraft and pilots to all of the movie studios. Mantz eventually merged his company with that of former rival Frank Tallman to form Tallmantz Aviation which maintained ownership of the Jenny until 1966 when it was sold at auction.

Available to the motion picture industry for at least 45 years; if you have watched many old aviation related movies, you’ve probably seen this aircraft before. In fact, a previous owner of the aircraft claims that this Jenny was flown in the 1957 Warner Brothers movie The Spirit of St. Louis.

Jim Smith acquired this Jenny in 1992.