Curtiss Jenny Restoration

Welcome! We hope you enjoy following the restoration process of a 1918 Curtiss JN4D Jenny. Once completed, the aeroplane will be flown and displayed at the Candler Field Museum in Williamson GA (30 miles south of Atlanta). You can contact me below by clicking on "VIEW MY PROFILE"

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Location: Peachtree City, Georgia, United States

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Radiator and Side Step

My trip cancelled at work yesterday so I was able to get some additional shop time.  I finished polishing the radiator and hoisted it into place.

Then the side braces were installed.

The lower water line was hooked up to the bottom of the radiator...

...and the other side hooked up to the pump.

Here is the entire hose

The Curtiss drawings show the step location as 12 inches forward of Station 8

Cutting fabric always makes me nervous!

Since there is a cap strip half the size of the longeron running from Station 4 to Station 8, a gap occurs between the fabric and the longeron.  A spruce shim was made to fit.

Here is the shim in place.

Because of the shim, the step frame can be solidly attached to the fuselage with some wood screws and stitching.  I will finish the step after the varnish dries on the shim.  Also, there will be a diamond tread plate installed over the step frame lip and the longeron.

I also had time to cinch down the engine mount attach bolts.

An unexpectedly productive day.  Enjoy!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Tail wires and radiator

There is a known fact that when the rudder deflects left or right on a Jenny, the fin brace wires make contact with the rudder horn wires.  They all do it.  It's just the way the Jenny was designed.

However, on our Jenny the wires touch right at the ferrule.

This is not good because I had visions of the wire lodging behind the ferrule and the rudder getting stuck in place. So after much head scratching, we decided to move the fin attach point higher on the fin.

We started out with a paper template transferred to some .065 in steel.

Using the torch, the steel was bent to the shape of the fin.

Of course several trial fits were needed to get it right.

This is the prototype.  We designed it to look like the front fin attach fitting. 

It works!  Now you can see the wires hitting past the ferrule.  I don't mind the wire to wire contact now.

After this photo was taken, the fitting was cleaned up - the tabs were rounded, edges filed and the entire thing was given some primer paint.

I would like to mount the radiator soon, so we started shining up the brass.

That was one night's work.  I expect to return to the shop early next week.

Do you remember the question about the three fuel gauge Jenny last post?

I think Dave Trojan might have found the answer:



Monday, January 21, 2013

Fuel and oil lines

 Here are some details of today's progress - This is the oil pressure line at the firewall.  A compression fitting was put on the end and a barb fitting screwed in to accept the flexible oil hose.

The flexible hose runs all the way to the oil pressure pickup fitting, which also has a barb fitting.

Here are the lines to the fuel pump.  On the right is the line from the tank.  On the left, the line goes from the outlet side of the pump to the carburetor.

Here is the line at the carburetor.  I have not installed it yet, but an inline fuel filter will be inserted into the line.

This is the oil line from the outlet side of the oil pump to the tank.

Here is another story researched by David Trojan. I paraphrased it to make it fit the scope of this blog.

The town of Eden, TX welcomed 2nd Lt. Philip R. Myer and his Curtiss JN6H. biplane.  It was was the first time a plane had ever visited their community so everyone came out to see it.  The Aviator  had flown from Kelly Field, San Antonio TX on March 25th, 1919

With almost 600 hours of flight experience, 2nd Lt. Philip R. Meyer was confident as he started the motor and lined up with the makeshift runway.  He spied an obstruction only 500 feet away - it was just a fence - and he reasoned that he had plenty of open pasture to become airborne in time.

Meyer knew one valve on the motor was not quite right, but the aircraft was brand new and had been thoroughly tested just 17 days prior. Moreover, the pilot and mechanic inspected the plane before the flight.

 To the horror of the Eden spectators, Meyer didn't become airborne but struck the fence. As the plane nosed over, the whirling propeller chopped into earth like a giant lawnmower blade. It simultaneously splintered, shooting thousands of sharp wooden daggers in all directions. The nearly 2,000-pound plane then rolled on its back, which threatened to crush Meyer.

 Meyer, however, had luck on his side as he remained uninjured.

The badly damaged airplane was not as fortunate. A local blacksmith clicked a picture of the remains being trucked from downtown Eden. The scribble on the back of that photo read, "Eden's first airplane leaving in disgrace."

 During the post-mishap interview, Meyer told the investigation board that because of the unanticipated softness of the ground, he did not have "enough speed when he got to the fence." However, he said that his attempt to hop the fence was unsuccessful, which suggests he pulled back on the stick despite his low airspeed. This is problematic because an attempt to climb prematurely, or too steeply at a low speed, may cause the airplane to settle back to the surface or stall.

The aircraft's specifications and operating instructions, which pilots were tasked to study at least once a week, points out the dangers of a low-speed takeoff. In fact, it suggests that while 45 mph is the minimum speed for flight, pilots should keep the plane on the ground until a liftoff speed of 75 mph.

Dave's original article was a unique look at an old airplane accident with modern research tools.  His article was very interesting but I was particularly impressed by the sequence of photo's showing Lt. Myer's fateful afternoon.  I have seen lots of post-crash pictures, but none showing a frame by frame story unfolding before your eyes. They are a very unique piece of history. 

Thanks, Dave for the research. 


Sunday, January 20, 2013


Not a whole lot to report.  Work is still busy but I had a chance to do a bunch of little things on the Jenny like hooking up oil lines, fuel lines etc.  Got the throttle hooked up last night.  Hope to get more done next week.

I just got word that John Gaertner at Blue Swallow Aircraft has designed a nifty ferrule maker.  Anyone contemplating building an old airplane needs a bunch of these and John is now a good source.

Here are some more photos collected by David Trojan.  Seven Jennies in the air at one time. I sure would like to see that again!  This photo is dated 10 August 1918.

I really liked this formation photo from inside the cockpit.  These are Canadian built Jennies - four ailerons, no down thrust on the engine and no cutouts in the center section

I really like this photo!

 More formation pictures

 Here is a picture of a pilot at Payne Field Mississippi.  I think this is a very rare picture of a JN4 D2. Notice the center section cutout and the large windshield.  Normally, JN4s had small windshields riveted to the cockpit cowling. The opening for the pilot was oval and surrounded by padding all the way around. On the D2 version, they made the windshield bigger and cut out the cockpit cowing behind the windshield so the instrument panel could be seen better.

 So, I think this is a D2.  Profile Publications Number 37 had this to say:

Curtiss built one prototype of an improved model the JN4D2 which was outwardly identical to the JN4D.  Production was scheduled for several of the subcontracting plants, but these were cancelled at the end of the war and only the 100 ordered from the Liberty Iron Works of Sacramento, CA were delivered.  The Liberty products differed from the Curtiss prototype in not having the downthrust for the engine.

Notice this Jenny has no downthrust.  Could this be one of the 100 very rare JN4 D2s?  Also notice there are three fuel gauges.

Was this Jenny equipped with three fuel tanks?  It looks like there is a front cockpit opening.  Hardly any room there for additional fuel tanks.  Could this be a photographic error?

Dorian Walker sent me pictures of their Jenny restoration.  Things are progressing at a rapid pace.

Lastly, if you like stuff about Charles Lindbergh,  William Terry Harpole went to the house in Maben, Mississippi where Lindbergh spent the nite and video taped the place as it stands today.

Hopefully, things at work will slow down and I can get back to making faster progress on our Jenny.  I hope you like all the side stories and pictures.  It keeps things interesting until I get back to the shop.

More soon


Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Well, we got the water pump to radiator line installed.

And ran the water temp line and ignition wires on the left side of the fuselage.

Here you can see the oil temp bulb in the side of the engine case.

After some good advise, I decided to change the oil pressure line.  Now a flexible hose runs from the firewall all the way to a barb fitting on the pickup.  No copper lines from the firewall forward anymore.

On to other things......

Dorian Walker just sent me a link to this site:

This is a cool website which lists every serial number of every airplane in the USAF inventory between 1908 and 1920. 

Dorian also sent me a website listing all the Jenny accidents prior to 1920.  Interesting reading!

In my last post, you might remember my friend John Saunders sending pictures about his SE5 / Hisso project in New Zealand.  John was looking for a source of new Hisso bearings. I didn't know where to get them, but thankfully Jenny owner Frank Shelling had been down this road before and was willing to help.

Frank wrote:

To answer your question about the thrust bearing: The bearing was not plated. I get mine rebuilt at the following business:

Bearing Manufacturing Company
1033 N. Kulmar Ave.
Chicago, Ilinois 60651
Attention: QC Department
(773) 278-6201
They regrind the races and fit in oversize balls in a new brass carrier  A very nice job.

I also got an e-mail from my friend Steve Beaver who owns a beautiful LOM powered Bucker Jungmann in Ohio.  Steve came across a bunch of "daredevil" photos that you might enjoy.  His favorite (and mine) was this picture of two cowboys playing cards on the Jenny center section. 


Notice the really long Hisso exhaust stack. That was probably made so the wing walker wouldn't get a face full of hot exhaust when he climbed out of the cockpit.

That must have been a crazy time back then.  No rules.  Fly however, wherever and whoever you want.  Of course, the mortality rate reflected this.

Lastly, you model makers amaze me.  Check out Steve Kessenger's Jenny model.

Steve says:   My Jenny model is at a slight standstill while I try to figure out a cowling issue, and I've also been busy building my Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey.

Gota love all this Jenny stuff. I'll post more of Dave Trojan's stuff in the next post.  This one is long enough.