Curtiss JN-2

The Curtiss JN-2 was the first version of the famous Curtiss Jenny, and was produced in small numbers for the US Army. It wasn’t a great success and within a year the surviving aircraft had been updated to the JN-3 standard.

In 1914 Glen Curtiss hired a British engineer, B. Douglas Thomas, to design him a tractor landplane. Two very similar aircraft were produced – the Model J and the Model N. They used the same Curtiss OX engine and had the same fuselage, but differed in details of their wings.

The Army purchased both of the Model Js and the sole Model N, and then placed an order for a batch of improved Model Js. The second of the existing aircraft was used as the prototype for the new design, and is sometimes known as the JN, but there was no official JN or JN-1. As the new aircraft was being designed some features from the Model N were included, and it became known as the Model JN. The eight production aircraft that were built to satisfy the Army order became the Curtiss JN-2, with the Army serial numbers 41 to 48.

Curtiss Jn-2 no.41 from the left
Curtiss JN-2 no.41
from the left

The JN-2 had more in common with the original J than with the modified version. The basic J had equal span biplane wings, with a Eiffel 36 aerofoil. The modified J was given a wider upper wing, which was later used in the JN-3. The JN-2 kept the Eiffel 36 aerofoil, but reverted to the equal span wings. They were two bay biplanes, with ailerons on all four wing panels and a shoulder-yoke control system. They were powered by the same 90hp Curtiss OX engine as the J and N.

The JN-2 wasn’t a successful design. Its performance was considered to be poor by the Army, and needed improving. By late in 1915 only six of the original eight were still in service, and they were given the unequal span wings of the JN-3, and 100hp OXX engines. After that they were considered to be JN-3s, despite keeping the original control system.

After being given the new wings, the surviving JN-2s were redesignated as JN-3s, joining the two JN-3s constructed for the US Army. They then joined the 1st Aero Squadron, and took part in General Pershing’s Punitive Expedition to Mexico, hunting for Pancho Villa.

Most of these aircraft had fairly short careers. No.41 was wrecked in a night landing in New Mexico on 19 March 1916. No.42 was dismantled and condemned while in Mexico on 15 April 1916. No.43 had to make a forced landing in Mexico on 19 April 1916 and was destroyed to prevent its capture. No.44 was damaged in a crash landing in Mexico on 16 April 1916 and condemned. No.45 was condemned in New Mexico in the spring of 1916.

Engine: Curtiss OX-5 inline
Power: 90hp
Crew: 2 pilots
Span: 43ft 7 3/8in
Length: 27ft 4in
Height: 9ft 10 5/8in
Max speed: 75mph
Cruising speed: 60mph
Climb Rate: 2,000ft in 7.5 min
Service ceiling: 6,500ft

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 July 2020), Curtiss JN-2 ,

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