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A Curtiss Jenny on display at the College Park Aviation Museum

1916 Curtiss JN-4D 
"Jenny"

Pioneer airplane inventor and manufacturer Glenn Curtiss had years of experience developing bicycles, engines, and aircraft. The JN series, developed as World War I training planes, would become one of the most important planes in early aviation.

The Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" was flown at College Park as part of Airmail's beginnings.

Specs

Year: 1916

Capacity: One pilot + one mail bag OR one pilot, one mechanic

Empty weight: 1430 lbs.

Wingspan: 43 ft. 7 in.

Maximum speed: 75 mph

Engine: Curtiss OX-5 90 horsepower

Propellers: 1 tractor propeller

During World War I, over 90% of American pilots learned to fly in the Curtiss JN. After the war, surplus planes were sold cheaply, and bought up by barnstormers, or stunt pilots. They toured the country performing dangerous and thrilling stunts for crowds. In 1918, the U.S. Post Office inaugurated the nation's first Airmail service from College Park, using Jenny's to transport the mail between cities and across states. 

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With the end of WWI, the U.S. 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. 

Jennys were bought secondhand by recreation pilots and barnstormers. Among those who purchased a surplus Jenny was a young Charles Lindbergh who paid $500 for one in 1923.

Airmail

When airmail service began in 1918, they used 6 Jennys supplied by the U.S. Army. Major Rueben Fleet ordered 6 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.

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.

Better known as the "Jenny", the Curtiss JN series was a hybrid design between Glenn Curtiss and British engineer B. Douglas Thomas, then working with Sopwith Aviation in England. Curtiss hired Thomas to design a two-seater tractor (propeller in front) airplane around the Curtiss OX-5 engine. The final design is the combination of Curtiss’s Model N blended with Thomas’ Model J.

Almost every airplane you see today--from small single engine planes to big jet liners--has an elevator, aileron, and rudder

The configuration--or layout of the parts--of the Jenny is the first plane in the College Park Aviation Museum that demonstrates the configuration that planes have maintained through today:

  • the engine and propeller in front

  • a stick (yoke) in front of the pilot to control pitch (up and down) with the elevator and roll with ailerons

  • ailerons -- small flaps on the wings that operate opposite to each other

  • pedals to control yaw (side to side) via the rudder

  • a fuselage, or central body

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Our Curtiss Jenny

his JN-4D was built in 1916 and was recently generously donated to the museum by 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% 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.

Curtiss Jenny Restoration

More visitor information

A Curtiss Jenny on display at the College Park Aviation Museum

Plan your visit

Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm

Closed Mondays and holidays

Kid's activities at events at the College Park Aviation Museum

About the museum

College Park Airport is the world's oldest continuously-operating airport, open since 1909. 

The College Park Aviation Museum preserves and shares the exciting history of the airport, this "Field of Firsts."

Take a guided tour of the College Park Aviation Museum

Tours and Groups

The museum offers guided tours for schools and groups of 10 or more.

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