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Curtiss JN-4 (Jenny) Trainer (1915)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 12/8/2014

The Curtiss JN-4 Jenny series of biplane trainers served in thousands of examples across multiple national air forces.

The much-loved Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" two-seat trainer aircraft was utilized in a myriad of ways throughout her operational career. The JN-4 proved just as critical a "weapon" in World War 1 as it did an advertising platform for civil aviation in the decade to follow. The "Jenny" gave many-an-airmen in America, Canada and Britain their first taste of powered flight while also training pilots in the details of aerial gunnery, bombardment, observation and basic aircraft handling. The aircraft proved highly suitable in stunt flying and helped give rise to the classic "barnstorming" age of the 1920s, proving popular across many air shows during the decade. A 1915 version, the JN-3, was used by the US Army in their war against Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). Over 6,800 Jennys were produced and many of these were of the definitive JN-4D production model. Design of the aircraft was attributed to Benjamin D. Thomas.

The nickname of "Jenny" was formed from the "JN" used in the aircraft designation.

The JN-4 was born of a 1914 US Army requirement calling for a dedicated two-seat trainer aircraft platform to be powered by a single engine installation in a "puller" arrangement. The actual Curtiss JN-4 model owed much of its existence to the original Curtiss "Model J" and "Model N" airplane developments appearing prior; the Model J being a conventional biplane aircraft fitted with the Curtiss O series inline engine of 90 horsepower while the Model N series being completed with the Curtiss OXX inline engine of 100 horsepower. It was these two aircraft that would come to form the basis for the JN-1 mark to follow and this was, itself, followed by the limited-run JN-2 biplane form. The US Army Signal Corps purchased several JN-2s though these were eventually deemed unsafe after a fatal accident. The upcoming JN-3 was developed as an interim design and this sported unequal-span biplane wings with refined controls for the wing surfaces, quickly becoming the new JN standard for the preceding JN-2s. The design was furthered to become the definitive "JN-4" and it was this mark that would go on to make history for American military aviation. Its success was such that a modified, local-license production version in Canada - the JN-4 (Can) - was soon realized.

Design of the JN-4 was traditional for the time, characterized by its use of a staggered biplane wing arrangement of unequal span and parallel struts with a double-bay configuration. The engine was situated at the forward-most portion of the slim fuselage with twin inline cockpits (the front for the student and the rear for the instructor) fitted aft of the engine compartment and forward of amidships. When viewed in the side profile, the fuselage was something of a pleasing teardrop shape, running under the engine compartment to the base of the empennage tapering rearwards. The tail unit consisted of a rounded vertical tail fin and applicable horizontal tailplanes. Each pilot sat in an open-air cockpit protected by nothing more than a windscreen at the front. Visibility was therefore quite good from the sides and to the rear though the front was dominated by the engine placement and both positions suffered from the large biplane wing structure. The undercarriage consisted of a two-wheeled, reinforced arrangement of struts and cabling as well as a wooden tail skid under the tail unit. As the JN-4 was a dedicated trainer aircraft, she was not typically fitted with armament of any kind.

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Specifications for the
Curtiss JN-4 (Jenny)

Focus Model: Curtiss JN-4 (Jenny)
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company LTD - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1915
Production: 6,906

Crew: 2

Length: 27.33 ft (8.33 m)
Width: 43.64 ft (13.30 m)
Height: 9.84ft (3.00 m)
Weight (Empty): 1,389 lb (630 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 1,918 lb (870 kg)

Powerplant: 1 x Curtiss OX-5 V8 piston engine developing 90 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 75 mph (121 kmh; 65 kts)
Maximum Range: 0 miles (0 km)
Service Ceiling: 21,325 ft (6,500 m; 4.0 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet-per-minute (0 m/min)

Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
Generally none though some were used for gunnery and bombing training by way of machine gun mounts and practice bombs.

JN-4 - Base Series Designation and initial production version.

JN-4A - Production based on the JN-4; 781 examples.

JN-4B - Fitted with Curtiss OX-2 piston engine; 85 examples completed.

JN-4C - Two experimental types.

JN-4 "Canuck" - Canadian version based on the JN-3; 1,260 examples completed.

JN-4D - Improved Jenny; control stick feature of the Canadian JN-4 "Canuck"; 2,812 examples produced.

JN-4D-2 - One-off prototpe with revised engine mount.

JN-4H - Advanced trainer; Hispano-Suiza 8 engine; 929 examples produced.

JN-4HT - Basic Trainer

JN-4HB - Bombing Trainer

JN-4HG - Gunnery Trainer

JN-4HM - Communications Platform

JN-5H - One-off advancede trainer concept

JN-6 - Improved Jenny; based on the JN-5 prototype.

JN-6H - Improved JN-6

JN-6BH - Bomber Trainer

JN-6HG-1 - Basic Trainer Trainer

JN-6HG-2 - Gunnery Trainer

JN-6HO - Observer Trainer

JN-6HP - Fighter Trainer

JNS - Standardized Jenny conversions of the 1920s.

Argentina; Australia; Canada; Cuba; United Kingdom; United States