Curtiss JN-4


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The Curtiss JN-4 two-seat biplane soon acquired the nickname 'Jenny' which was used widely during the inter-war years. It was one of the most significant American aircraft of its time. From April 1917 when the USA entered World War I it was built in large numbers and used to train some 95% of all American and Canadian pilots. It achieved renewed fame from 1919 until the late 1920s, when thousands were flown in the barnstorming era, thrilling spectators at travelling aerial pageants and shows throughout the United States.

The JN-4 was developed from the JN-2, via the interim JN-3 which had featured unequal-span wings with ailerons on the upper wing only and introduced a wheel-type aileron control system. Redesigned vertical tail surfaces had a fin and rudder assembly with contours which were to be largely retained in the JN-4. The UK bought 91 JN-3s and the US Army two. Several JN-2s were converted subsequently to JN-3 standard by the incorporation of JN-3 wings and vertical tail surfaces and by installation of the 75kW Curtiss OXX engine. Total production was no more than 100, a dozen built at a newly-built Toronto factory.

The JN-4 in its original form closely resembled the JN-3, retaining the same unequal-span two-bay wing and cross-axle landing gear. It first appeared in July 1916 when 105 were sold to the UK and 21 to the US Army. Others were purchased by private owners and a number were operated by the Curtiss company's flying schools. As a result of British experience with the JN-3 and JN-4 the Curtiss company developed the JN-4A (retro-designated Model 1 in 1935), which incorporated a number of improvements (larger tailplane and engine downthrust). A total of 781 was completed, 87 of them at the Curtiss Canadian factory. The US Army bought 601, the US Navy five and the rest were exported to the UK. The JN-4B (Model 1A) appeared in late 1916, just before the JN-4A. It differed in several design details (it introduced-the larger tailplane and used the OX-2 engine), and found a number of private purchasers and flying schools as customers, added to which the US Army bought 76 and the US Navy nine.

Two examples of the experimental JN-4C were followed by the very successful JN-4 Can and JN-4D (Model 1C). The former had been developed from the JN-3 by the Curtiss company's Canadian associate, Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, and soon became known as the Canuck. Production totalled 1,260 of which 680 went to the US Army while the bulk of the remainder became the standard Canadian primary trainer. The JN-4 Can served with the Royal Canadian Air Force until 1924, while privately owned aircraft remained in use into the 1930s. John Ericson, chief engineer of Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd, assembled 127 aircraft in 1927, most of them reconditioned aircraft incorporating many parts which had been held in stock. Some had a third cockpit and were known under the designation Ericson Special Three.

The JN-4D appeared in June 1917 and went into large-scale production, 2,812 being built between November 1917 and January 1919. In view of the urgent need for efficient trainers in wartime conditions the production involved six other US manufacturers. As well as several new features, the JN-4D combined the more successful elements of both the JN-4 Can and JN-4A designs (stick control of the former, in place of the Deper-dussin system, and the lines and engine downthrust of the latter). The end of World War I led to cancellation of contracts for 1,100 examples of a JN-4D-2 version, which had a number of modifications requested by the US Army. In the event, only the prototype was delivered to the military authorities, although several were sold to civil operators in 1919.

In a bid to provide an advanced trainer to meet urgent wartime needs, the JN-4D was re-engined with the more powerful 112kW (150-hp) Hispano-Suiza built by the Wright company. The resulting JN-4H (Model 1E) was in production from the end of 1917 to the November 1918 armistice, 929 being delivered to the US Army. The JN-4H was completed also in dual-control (JN-4HT), combing (JIM-4HB) and gunnery trainer (JN-4HG) versions.

Curtiss JN-4

The one-off JN-5H advanced trainer was built to a US Army requirement, but was rejected in favour of the Vought VE-7. It was developed into the JN-6H (Model 1F) which had a strengthened aileron control structure. The US Army purchased 1,035 JN-6Hs, subsequently passing five examples to the US Navy. The aircraft delivered to the US Army were built in sub-variants specialised for various training functions. (JN-6HB single-control bomber trainer, JN-6HG-1 dual-control trainer, JN-6HG-2 single-control gunnery trainer, JN-6HO single-control observation trainer and JN-6HP single-control pursuit [fighter] trainer).

As part of the post-war economy drive the US Army was forced to modernize the 'Jenny' rather than purchase new designs. This task was allocated to US Army Service Depots, which upgraded many of the earlier versions until 1926. The revised aircraft all used Wright-built 134kW Hispano-Suiza engines and were redesignated JNS (standing for JN Standardized). Between 200 and 300 JNS trainers were completed.

The US Army used JN-4As, JN-4Ds and JN-4 Can primary trainers until 1919. The higher powered JN-4Hs and JN-6Hs remained in service until they were phased out in favour of new types in the mid-1920s, the last Jennies being withdrawn from US Army service in 1927.

Meanwhile, from 1919 onwards more and more Jennies had been sold to private owners, many of whom used their aircraft to earn a living as stunt pilots. Unhampered by regulations relating to their operation until the first restrictions were applied in 1927, Jennies became well known to a whole generation of citizens right across the United States. Operating on a travelling circus basis and flying from unprepared fields on the outskirts of thousands of American townships, the Jenny created thrills galore with exhibitions of wing walking, aerial trapeze work and low-level aerobatics, as well as providing joy-riding or pleasure flights. That there were badly maintained Jennies by the dozen cannot be denied, and it is true that there were many casualties, yet the barnstorming or 'Jenny' era helped to make America air-minded in a most remarkable manner. The Jenny also featured in many Hollywood films of the 1920s and early 1930s. A considerable number of Jennies survive in museums and several in private ownership are maintained in flying condition in the USA.

Twin JN

 MODELCurtiss JN-4D
 ENGINE1 x 67kW Curtiss OX-5 inline piston engine
  Take-off weight871 kg1920 lb
  Empty weight630 kg1389 lb
  Wingspan13.30 m44 ft 8 in
  Length8.33 m27 ft 4 in
  Height3.01 m10 ft 11 in
  Wing area32.70 m2351.98 sq ft
  Max. speed121 km/h75 mph
  Cruise speed97 km/h60 mph
  Ceiling1980 m6500 ft

JN-4HA three-view drawing of JN-4H (800 x 802)

Comments1-20 21-40
Lino Espinoza, e-mail, 10.01.2017 23:26

We love this plane at JBSA Randolph! To whom it may concern: We're gearing up for our 2017 Airshow. We will be incorporating a heritage theme. Q: How can I go about utilizing your Jenny aircraft images for this event. It is a non-profit DoD endeavor and the Jenny would go a long way to providing visual impact. Any help would be appreciated. Lino Espinoza Chief of Graphics JBSA-Randolph. 210.652-4581


Dan, e-mail, 06.09.2016 21:10

Mesmerized by The Jenny for over a half century of my life, I'm jus now starting construction on a Centennial tribute to the Famous JN-4HB of 1917. A tribute that heralds the origins of aviation, in the form of a modern, nostalgic and stylized, electric-assisted bicycle!!!

The slim "chopped" bicycle will feature a blocky frame (instead of round tube)with "a bigger motor" than current typical "e-bikes", angled double struts to reflect the Jenny's offset wing uniqueness, TWO inline seats (actually a passenger seat, uncommon in modern bicycles)and of course an authentic facsimile of "a training bomb" that will house the modern lithium battery for power(hence the "HB" designation for "hidden battery" or bombing trainer). Painted in the typical two-color motif, the flared rear fender will carry a larger, broader fender style that will bear the "flash" colors, and forward the typical roundel of the era, which will be reflected in the "fuselage" number, 1917. Oh, and "a single stick" shift controller not seen on bicycles today.

A unique "barnstormer" and showy bicycle, in a time when there exists little regulation in the new "e-bike" era. Show plaques will accentuate the details of the bicycle, and of course, the Famous and Historical JN-4H of a century ago. Many today will never see a "Jenny" in flight, but it should never be forgotten!!!


Ed Drury, e-mail, 17.02.2015 23:01

I have the history of one JN-4D. I have the prop , name plate, Canadian Name plate and several other plates from it. It crashed in 1922 on Sunset Hill in Staten Island, NY SN 7035
The "flying circus" it flew with is mentioned in my aviation book "Staten Island, the Other Cradle of Aviation"


Robert Sezniak, e-mail, 19.10.2012 21:32

We have an original Jenny radiator to Sell....772.209.9992...


Klaatu83, e-mail, 01.04.2012 15:06

IN 1916 a few early "JN" aircraft accompanied General Pershing's "Punitive Expedition" to Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa.

The twin-engine aircraft in the bottom photo was known as the "Twin JN". It was a one-off prototype, built by Curtiss, based upon JN-4 components and powered by two OX-5 engines.


Tom Everhart, e-mail, 13.10.2011 09:08

I am building a Jenny. So I am looking for Jenny parts and an "Original Data Plate", Pictures, info, OX-5 Parts and "What Have You". Can You "Help Me"? (502)422-3076 or Thanks, Tom


choqing, 21.06.2011 07:25

The Jenny was generally used for primary flight training, but some were equipped with machine guns and bomb racks for advanced training. After World War I, hundreds were sold on the civilian market.


Bill Tugend, e-mail, 30.04.2011 14:22

My Dad, also Bill Tugend flew a Jenny in the 1920s. He told me many things about them. Some of which I understand better after reading this site. (I was a small boy at the time.) He claimed that 'Jenny' was a common term for JN-4. Pop had an incident which knocked out his two front teeth from kissing the cowling when flying into a pine tree due to a power failure on 'rural' Long Island. (Probably East Queens County or Nassau Co.) He had a flying buddy Named Roy Disbrow who was killed in a crash in a Jenny. (Possibly the same incident?) After that is when Dad settled down and married the woman who was to become my Mom in 1933. s /Bill Tugend


Bill Hendrickson, e-mail, 30.04.2011 01:08

To anyone interested in a good read, try to find a copy of "Jenny Was No Lady", by Jack R. Lincke. It is a very informative read and quite humorous in spots. It seems that Jenny was rather fickle. My wife's uncle may have perished at her hands. He was a pilot in training in the 1915-1920 timeframe.


Tony Gallego, e-mail, 26.02.2011 22:00

During WW-2 I flew the PT-17 Stearman,UC-78, B-25 and B-26. Of course I had the most fun flying the Stearmsn which looked much like the old "Jenny". My first plane ride as a kid was in a Jenny from a field somewhere around Slason and Garfield, LA. I new then that I wanted to be a pilot.


karl rogers, e-mail, 28.01.2011 14:49

my grandfather worked at the curtice plant in 1919 he was the lumber inspector .his name burr rogers he lived in lindsey ohio he told me his many experiences .


Rob Mulder, Norway, e-mail, 05.01.2011 08:25

Hi Anne,
The word "Jenny" came from the type designation: J-N. People simple started to call it for the JN or Jenny.


Tom Everhart, e-mail, 12.12.2010 06:13

There is a Jenny Project being Built in the Philippines for an American Owner. It is "Almost Finished" and is slated to be returned to the U.S. where it is going to be "Sold or Traded". Anybody interested?


Morton Wood, e-mail, 10.08.2010 18:45

I always thought the liberty engine was used in the jenny . If not where was it used?


John Potts, Jr., e-mail, 14.08.2010 20:09

Morton Wood --- The Liberty engine was never used in the JN-4 during WW1. It was far too powerful and heavy for the "Jenny" which was essentially a trainer. The Liberty engine, 400hp, was used to power the DH-4, a British Dehaviland design, manufactured in the U.S. It saw combat in France as an observation /light bomber. My father flew both of them and was training on the new, and first, American designed plane to be designed to be the pride of the U.S. in France, the Thomas-Morse Scout. This plane was intended to fill the mission of the French Spad and British SE-5 fighter planes. Unfortunately the Scout never made it to France as the war was over before it could be deployed. My father was terribly disappointed.


marber, e-mail, 03.03.2010 17:54

1915 - Glenn H. Curtiss comes to Buffalo and rents the Thomas Flyer Automobile Manufacturing Plant on Niagara Street. This is where he develops the R-model airplane which will be the forerunner of the famous Curtiss "Jenny." Curtiss soon moves to a plant he builds on Churchill Street. He also rents several other facilities and ultimately (1917) builds a 31 acre plant at 2050 Elmwood Avenue.

1916 - The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company becomes the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world during World War I and goes public in 1916 with Curtiss as president. Curtiss employs 18,000 at its Buffalo facility and 3,000 at its Hammondsport, New York location. They produce 10,000 aircraft during World War I, more than 100 in a single week.
The Curtiss "Jenny," America's most famous World War I airplane, was developed by combining the best features of the Curtiss "J" and "N" models. The JN-3 was modified in 1916 to improve its performance and redesignated the JN-4. With America's entry into World War I on April 6, 1917, the Signal Corps began ordering large quantities of JN-4s, and by the time production was terminated after the Armistice, more than 6,000 had been delivered, the majority of them JN-4D.

The Jenny was generally used for primary flight training, but some were equipped with machine guns and bomb racks for advanced training. After World War I, hundreds were sold on the civilian market.


jack L. Miller, e-mail, 18.02.2010 07:31

The Jenny that is at DIA, was, at its restoration completion, hung in the terminal at Stapleton, predecessor to DIA. The restoration was done by a dedicated team, led by my younger brother, Jerry M. Miller, who now resides in Grand Junction, CO


Vince McMahill, e-mail, 06.02.2010 18:06

Would like to know if there are any jenny-4 privately owned??


johndalek, e-mail, 24.01.2010 08:39

there is a terrific jn-4d hanging up in terminal 2 at denver airport. love to walk under that bird and wish i was up flying the thing--low and slow--all across america


Vance Whitwer, e-mail, 16.10.2009 16:45

This message is for Charles Dare. I have access to a picture of Gene Shank while flying at the Robbinsdale Airport. I tried to e-mail you.


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