The Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” was one of a series of “JN” biplanes built by the Curtiss Aeroplane Company of Hammondsport, New York, later the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. Although the Curtiss JN series was originally produced as a training aircraft for the U.S. Army, the “Jenny” (the common nickname derived from “JN-4”, with an open-topped four appearing as a Y) continued after World War I as a civil aircraft, as it became the “backbone of American postwar [civil] aviation.”
Thousands of surplus Jennys were sold at bargain prices to private owners in the years after the war and became central to the barnstorming era that helped awaken the U.S. to civil aviation through much of the 1920s. Curtiss combined the best features of the model J and model N trainers, built for the Army and Navy, and began producing the JN or “Jenny” series of aircraft in 1915. Curtiss built only a limited number of the JN-1 and JN-2 biplanes. The JN-2 was an equal-span biplane with ailerons controlled by a shoulder yoke in the aft cockpit. It was deficient in performance, particularly climbing, because of excessive weight.
The Curtiss JN-4 is possibly North America’s most famous World War I aircraft. It was widely used during World War I to train beginning pilots, with an estimated 95% of all trainees having flown a JN-4. The U.S. version was called “Jenny”, a derivation from its official designation. It was a twin-seat (student in front of instructor) dual-control biplane. Its tractor propeller and maneuverability made it ideal for initial pilot training with a 90 hp Curtiss OX-5 V8 engine giving a top speed of 121 km/h and a service ceiling of 6,500 ft. The British used the JN-4 (Canadian), along with the Avro 504, for their primary World War I trainer using the Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd. indigenous variant. Although ostensibly a training aircraft, the Jenny was extensively modified while in service to undertake additional roles.