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Aero-TV: Curtiss Jenny Build Wows AirVenture Crowds

Jenny, I’ve Got Your Number...

Among the magnificent antique aircraft on display at EAA’s AirVenture 2022 was a 1918 Curtiss Jenny painstakingly constructed to Curtiss’s original specifications by the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Chapter 1414 in cooperation with the Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum. The two organizations, both of which hail from the village of Poplar Grove in north-central Illinois, set about the project in service of a noble, joint ambition to build a flying aircraft representative of aviation’s iconic early days.

Construction of the Jenny began in February 2017 and spanned five-years and 22,000 volunteer man-hours. Insistent upon authenticity, the Jenny’s builders—led by Don Perry, a retired construction worker, longtime EAA member, and veteran of numerous aircraft builds—secured north of 1,200 original Curtiss engineering drawings to inform their efforts.

While the Jenny remains true to Curtiss’s original design, aspects of the aircraft—such as its fabric covering, and wood and metal joinery—comprise modern materials and building methods. The engine, however, is an original, 1918 Curtiss OX-5—a complex and fiddly mill, the restoration of which required a dedicated crew and months of tear-down, overhauling, and reassembly. The liquid-cooled, V-8 OX-5 was the first American-designed aircraft engine to be mass-produced, with some 12,600 specimens having been built between 1915 and 1919. Though underpowered and not particularly reliable, the OX-5’s low RPMs and good fuel-economy proved attractive to manufacturers of early civilian aircraft—as did the engine’s spectacularly low, post-war cost. In the years following WWI, almost-new examples of the OX-5 could be had for as little as $20.

The Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” is looked upon as the aircraft that taught America to fly, and with good reason. An estimated 94% of America’s WWI military pilots trained in the JN-4—the 65-knot top-speed and 6,500-foot service-ceiling of which proved immensely conducive to primary flight-training. Even Charles Lindbergh soloed in a Jenny, and spent most of 1923 barnstorming in one under the sobriquet Daredevil Lindbergh.

Parties interested in learning more about the Curtiss Jenny, or wishing to view the superb example exhibited at the EAA’s AirVenture 2022 are invited to visit the Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum in Poplar Grove, Illinois.

Aero-TV is a production of the Internationally syndicated Aero-News Network. Seen worldwide by hundreds of thousands of aviators and aviation adherents, ANN's Aero-TV has produced over 5000 aviation and feature programs, including nearly 2000 episodes of our daily aviation news program, AIRBORNE UNLIMITED, currently hosted by Holland Lee. Now in its third decade of operation, parent company Aero-News Network, has the most aggressive and intensive editorial profile of any aviation news organization and has published nearly a half-million news and feature stories since its inception -- having pioneered the online 24/7 aviation new-media model that so many have emulated.

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