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Curtiss Model J

In 1914, the U.S. Army had become concerned about the number of fatalities that had occurred in pusher aircraft and decided it needed to acquire a tractor biplane that it could use for training. After a rash of fatal accidents, the U.S. Army grounded all Wright and Curtiss "pusher" airplanes, leaving the Army with almost nothing to fly. Glenn Martin offers a tractor biplane to fill the gap, the Martin Model T becomes the Army's first "safe" training airplane. In response, the Curtiss Company of Hammondsport, New York, the main supplier of training aircraft for the Army, developed two prototypes. The Model J powered by the Curtiss OX 90-horsepower (67-kilowatt) engine and the Model N powered by the Curtiss OXX 100-horsepower (134 kilowatt) engine.

Development of the Jenny actually began in 1913 when aircraft manufacturer Glenn Curtiss visited the factory of Thomas Sopwith in England. Sopwith had been manufacturing aircraft with a tractor propeller configuration and Curtiss was interested in developing this type of aircraft. While there, Curtiss met B. Douglas Thomas who would join the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation and design the Curtiss J and N models.

The Model "J" was designed in England by Thomas. Thomas had extensive aircraft design experience, with previous employment at Vickers and later with Sopwith. Thomas spent the winter of 1913-1914 working on the design. Construction began and a prototype was finished in April 1914. The Model "J" incorporated a water-cooled Curtiss OX V-8 powerplant. Both wings originally had a wingspan of 30 ft with ailerons on the top and bottom wings.

The Thomas-designed Model J, the first predecessor of the Jenny, debuted on May 10, 1914 and flew evaluation at North Island on June 27, 1914. Except for the flight control system of which Curtiss had used in his pusher designs, it incorporated all the latest advances in European biplane design of the time. The Curtiss flight control system used a fore and aft motion of the Control Column to operate the elevators, a wheel worked the rudder, and a shoulder yoke assembly, attached behind of the seat, operated the ailerons.

On December 21, 1914, , Capt. H.L. Miller ditched the Model J "AS-29", into the Pacific just offshore of North Island. Lt. Frederick Gerstner, a student pilot was drowned during the incident. The cause of the crash, the plague of the Curtiss JN series, was engine failure. The OX engine was by no means reliable, it was just the best there was at the time.



Army Lt. Lewis E. Goodier in Curtiss J No. 29; note shoulder yoke control, North Island, fall, 1914