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Building a Jenny

  • Building a Jenny
    Members of the Jenny build team, from L-R: Ken Starzyk, EAA 1067222, Frank Herdzina, EAA 568726, Don Perry, EAA 672221, and Mike Frederiksen.
  • Building a Jenny
    Frank Herdzina inspects one of the elevator control horns.
  • Building a Jenny
    The team discusses cockpit details.

February 18, 2016 - EAA Chapter 1414 and the Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum, both of Poplar Grove, Illinois, are teaming up build a full-scale replica of a Curtiss JN-4, best known as the Jenny. The two organizations have long had a close association—they even share a building—so when the idea came up to build an airplane, it was perfectly natural that they’d work together.

The idea originally came from Don Perry, EAA 672221, a retired construction worker and instructor who has been involved in a number of aircraft builds, including his own pride and joy, a Starduster Too. Perry knew that the museum was interested in a flyable aircraft that could be used to support their mission of education and outreach around pre-1940 aviation history, and the Jenny clearly fits the bill. There’s a family connection as well, as Perry’s grandfather flew a Jenny in the early 1920s as an airmail pilot.

It didn’t take long for Perry to bring together a team, including Ken Starzyk, EAA 1067222, Frank Herdzina, EAA 568726, and Mike Frederiksen, to start planning the project. Their first order of business? A visit on Monday, February 15, to our EAA AirVenture Museum to take a detailed look at the 1918 JN-4D we have in our collection. Museum Director Bob Campbell, EAA 217428, made arrangements for Perry and his group to go beyond the barriers for an up-close examination of the airplane for photos, measurements, and inspiration. As our Jenny is displayed only half-covered, the group was able to get an especially good look at build techniques and numerous other details.

While the airplane will stay as true as practical to the original design and construction, it will be a replica, as it’s not the team’s intent to build an exacting recreation. For example, they’ll use modern fabric covering, and they plan on using a modern engine, following in the footsteps of the Friends of Jenny project that we profiled in the June 2015 issue of Sport Aviation magazine. Chapter 1414 will lead the construction efforts, but the airplane will be owned, funded, and ultimately operated by the museum. Perry estimates the project to cost in the neighborhood of $70,000 and expects construction to take roughly five years.

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