Curtiss JN-3

The Curtiss JN-3 was the first version of the famous Curtiss Jenny to be produced in large numbers, mainly as a trainer for the RNAS. Two were also purchased by the US Army, but both were lost during the expedition to Mexico in 1916.

The original Model J and Model N had both been equal span biplanes. When the Army ordered a modified Model J, the second Model J was used as a prototype and was given unequal span wings, with smaller lower wings with rounded tips. However the production JN-2s were given equal span wings, with four ailerons and shoulder-yoke aileron controls, which required the pilot to lean in the direction they wanted to bank. The elevators were controlled by moving the control column forward or back and the wheel controlled the rudder.

Curtiss JN-3 no.53 from the right, Mexico, 1916
Curtiss JN-3 no.53 from the right, Mexico, 1916

Their performance had been poor, so on the JN-3 Curtiss reverted to the unequal span wings of the second Model J, with ailerons on the upper wings only. The upper wings had pointed tips, while the shorter lower wings had rounded tips. It was still a two bay biplane, with the lower wing ending just outside the second set of interwing struts. The JN-3 also had improved controls, with the shoulder-yoke system replaced by the Deperdussin system. This had a wheel to control the ailerons and a foot bar for the rudder. The JN-3 also had a new tail – earlier models had a low rectangular fun and rudder, twice as long as it was tall, with curved ends. The JN-3 had a triangular fin leading to a taller curved rudder.

It isn’t entirely clear how many JN-3s the British actually bought, with figures ranging from 91 to 97. Putnam’s detailed Curtiss Aircraft gives a figure of 91, with RNAS serials 1362-1367 (6) and 3345-3423 (79) for Curtiss built aircraft and 8392-8403 (12) for Canadian built aircraft, a total of 97 numbers. The first order was placed in March 1915.

The JN-3 was also built in Canada, at a Toronto factory owned by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motors, Ltd, a Canadian subsidiary of the company. These aircraft were built for export to Britain. The factory was later taken over by the Canadian Government, becoming Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd, and building the JN-4 (as the Canuck). Twelve of the British JN-3s (RNAS serials 8392-8403) were built in Canada.

Two JN-3s were purchased for the US Army (serial numbers 52 and 53), in August 1915. They may well have been purchased to replace two of the original eight JN-2s, as two appear to have been lost at some point before late 1915 when the remaining six were given JN-3 wings. They combined with the six converted JN-2s to form the force of eight Jn-3s from the 1st Aero Squadron took part in General John Pershing’s Punitive Expedition into northern Mexico in 1916, hunting for Pancho Villa. The JN-3 didn’t perform well in the desert, giving Pershing a rather poor opinion of military aircraft. Of the eight aircraft involved four were damaged in various landing accidents in Mexico in March-April and destroyed, two were condemned in New Mexico in the Spring of 1916 and one was condemned and dismantled in Mexico in April 1916, leaving only one survivor!

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 (21 July 2020), Curtiss JN-3 ,

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