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Curtiss JN-4D-2 Jenny Replica
Curtiss JN-4D-2 Jenny Replica
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The aircraft in the Museum is a full scale replica of the famous Curtiss JN-4 Jenny series biplane trainers of World War I. Elton H. Rowley (1911-1997), a former Boeing Aircraft Flight Test Engineer, spent six and one-half years researching and building the airplane. Some changes were made from the original JN-4D in order to meet modern-day Federal Aviation Administration standards. The fuselage is made of welded steel tubing rather than spruce. Disc brakes were added as well as a small wheel in the tail skid. The engine is an air-cooled TANK modification of the liquid-cooled Curtiss OX5 used on original JN-4Ds. Some modern instruments were mixed in with the old ones. Fourteen inches were removed from each wingtip so the aircraft could fit into a standard T-hangar.

In a 1973 magazine article Rowley commented, in part, “…you probably can’t imagine the difficulty of building a 3-dimensional airplane in 1970 from 2-dimensional plans and specs dating back to before World War I. You’d look at them and wonder how they did some of the things…” Rowley and friends hand carved the propeller from a 10-foot club of laminated birch. About flying the plane, Rowley said, “You have to fly it all the time. A Jenny’s never going to fly you.”

The Jenny’s Aircraft Log lists its first flight as May 16, 1969. Elton Rowley donated the aircraft to Combat Air Museum on November 5, 1985.

Curtiss Jennys trained all World War I US pilots. Curtiss and other companies produced over 5,000 of the JN-4 series. Most US-built planes went to the US Army and a few hundred went to the US Navy. Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd. built the JN-4(Can) or Canuck. Curtiss had earlier produced a J series and an N series, then combined the best features of these two to produce the JN series. “Jenny” was born from JN. Besides being a trainer, a number of Jennys were converted to ambulance planes.

By the time the Army and Navy declared the JNs obsolete in 1927, many surplus planes had already entered the civilian market at bargain prices. Many former World War I pilots and newcomers as well, flew the planes trying to make a living as barnstormers, giving airplane rides out of pastures and flying as stunt pilots. Charles A. Lindbergh was among them, going on a barnstorming tour of the Midwest with his $500 JN-4 purchased in 1923. It was in this role that the Jenny perhaps gained its greatest fame. Flying Circuses were born with death defying and sometimes death dealing stunts. The 1975 cinema production 'The Great Waldo Pepper' deals with the barnstorming era of the 1920s and early 1930s.

In a more docile but sometimes equally dangerous role, the Jenny served as a mail plane in the first continuous airmail service between Washington D.C. and New York City and in other airmail routes. A number of planes and pilots were lost due to weather and mechanical problems during the inaugural AirMail service flights.

This JN-4D-2 appeared in the 1989 NBC TV movie “Cross of Fire” which was partially filmed in and around Topeka. It was featured in scenes filmed at Vinland, Kansas, about 46 miles southeast of Topeka.

TECHNICAL NOTES:
Original/Replica
Manufacturer:
Rowley-Curtiss
Basic Role:
Trainer
Crew:
Two
Engines:
Curtiss OX-5 8-cylinder, V-type, water-cooled/Tank OX5 (Model V502) air-cooled
Maximum speed:
75 mph (121km/hr at sea level/62 mph (100km/hr)
Max. Range:

Service Ceiling:
6,500ft (1,980m)
Wingspan:
43 feet 7 inches (13.3m)/41 feet 3 inches (12.6m)
Length:
27 feet 3 inches (8.3m)/Same
Height:
9 feet 10 inches (3m)/Same
Weight (empty)
1,350 lbs. (612kg)/1,600 lbs. (726kg)
Weight (gross)
2,016 lbs. (914kg)/2,188 lbs. (992kg)
Armament:
None
Serial number:
R101
   
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