FAS’s Jenny Used to Reignite America’s Romance with Flying

After the Wright Brother’s history-setting 1st powered flight on December 14, 1903, the development of aviation in America almost came to a complete standstill within the next few years.

Why?  Because when various entrepreneurs attempted to enter the new American aviation industry, they were quickly sued for patent infringements by the Wrights.  The result was that the Europeans, unfettered by this U.S. Patent warfare, started into their own aviation development at a furious pace.  Before long, they were far ahead of our floundering new industry, one which had fallen into in-fighting over the Wright patent claims.  The lawsuits alone caused many new aviation enterprises to quickly fold or file for bankruptcy.

In fact, things were so bad in the U.S., that when it entered the Great War in Europe in 1917, our pilots had to fly either British or French airplanes, which, because of so much airplane maker competition, were far superior to our own equipment.

We had nothing over here but what had become a superb training and utility airplane, the inimitable JN-4 Jenny.  The original Jennies had been so significantly modified and improved by the First Aero Squadron during the Punitive Expedition out of Columbus, NM, that some 6800 of them were put into production and used to train almost 12,000 American and Canadian pilots to fly in WWI.

But the U.S. was engaged in WWI for only a short time, and when it ended in 1918, the U.S. Army had thousands of these practical flying machines, which they then promptly put up for sale on the surplus market.

For  very little cash, often as little as only $50, one could purchase a reliable and properly functioning JN4 Jenny.  This great surplus of inexpensive Jennies was used by returning WWI pilots to launch what became known as “Barnstorming” all across the U.S.  It was this barnstorming craze that, more than any other dynamic, helped fuel the great new romance of the American public with everything related to the new business of airplanes and flight.

The above 8:46 minute archival film helps one understand what this popular barnstorming was all about.

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