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1916 Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" Military Tractor

1916 Jenny

During World War I, over 90 percent of American pilots learned to fly in the Curtiss JN. Better known as the Jenny, the Curtiss JN series is actually a hybrid design. This project began when Curtiss toured England during World War I. He met British engineer B. Douglas Thomas, then working at Sopwith Aviation. Curtiss soon hired him to design a two-seat, tractor airplane around the Curtiss-built OX-5 engine. The final design is the combination of Curtiss’s Model N blended with Thomas’ Model J.


With the end of WWI, the US government quickly cancelled war contracts and began selling surplus military equipment. Glenn Curtiss bought back $20 million worth of equipment, mostly Jennys and OX-5 engines, at a cost of 13 cents on the dollar. Meanwhile, Curtiss began an extensive marketing campaign highlighting the many civilian applications of the Jenny, which included; pleasure flying, commuting, aerial photography, policing, and exhibition flying (better known as barnstorming). Among those who purchased a surplus Jenny was a young Charles Lindbergh who paid $500 for one in 1923.


When airmail service began in 1918, they used six Jennys supplied by the US Army. Major Rueben Fleet ordered six JN-4Hs directly from Glenn Curtiss. Fleet wanted larger fuel tanks to extend the Jenny’s range and the front cockpit replaced with a mail hopper to hold 300 pounds of mail. Fleet also wanted the work completed in eight days. The Post Office used the modified Jennys to prove airmail was a viable service. In the first year, Jennys helped airmail pilots complete 92% of their scheduled flights. However, officials soon wanted an airplane able to carry more mail and fly farther.

This JN-4D was built in 1916 and is on loan from the U.S. Army Center for Military History. Unfortunately, its history before being discovered in pieces near San Antonio, Texas remains unclear. The U.S. Army gathered up the remaining bits and the Virginia Aviation and Machine Company, Ltd restored the biplane in the 1990s. A monumental task, this meticulous restoration took over 12,000 man-hours to complete and retained up to 60 percent of original Jenny parts. Some of the parts are original Curtiss Jenny parts, but not original to this particular aircraft. Parts that had to be fabricated were made in strict accord with original Curtiss factory drawings. 

Wing Span:
43 feet, 7 3/8 inches
Overall Length: 27 feet, 4 inches 
Overall Height:
9 feet, 10 5/8 inches
Net Weight Empty:
1430 lbs.
Useful Payload:
490 lbs.
Max. speed:
75 mph 
Min. speed:
45 mph 
Max. rate of climb:
200 fpm 
Model OX-5, Vee, Four cycle, 8 liquid cooled cylinders 
Fuel Consumption:
9 gph 
Fuel Capacity:
21 gallons 
Oil capacity Crankcase:
4 gallons