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THE CURTISS JN4-D “Jenny” was the iconic biplane of the Twenties, the aeroplane of choice for an entire generation of barnstormers including Charles Lindbergh.
If it was good enough for “Lucky Lindy,” it’s good enough for me.
Learning to fly the Microsoft Flight Simulator Jenny, I’ve been reading The Curtiss Standard JN4-D Military Tractor Hand Book 1918 (www.wp.me/p2ETap-If). The book’s last chapter, “Hints on Flying,” offered crucial advice: On takeoff, “Watch your direction carefully and counteract with right rudder the machine’s tendency to turn to the left, due to the propeller’s air blast striking the left side of the fin more forcibly than the right side.”
Odd, I would have thought this pronounced left-on-power was attributable to torque of the Jenny’s OX-5 V-8 (www.wp.me/p2ETap-rz).
Another bit of information, discovered rather late in my soloing attempts: “After a height of not less than 800 feet, a turn can be contemplated.” I can’t tell you how often I hit the reset button before reading this.
The Jenny was the mainstay of barnstorming. This video is quite amazing: http://goo.gl/ttZyX. [Note: This link may overwhelm a mobile phone; it works on larger devices.]
A Jenny was the first aeroplane, in 1917, to use air-to-ground and air-to-air radiotelephony. When the U.S. Post Office established air mail a year later, the Jenny was chosen to deliver it.
Inaugurated May 15, 1918, air mail service ran between Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. But not without controversy: First, the 24¢ charge, compared with First-Class mail’s 3¢, was considered airborne robbery. (Figure $3.65 versus 46¢ in today’s dollar.)
Second, printing the air mail stamp turned into one of philately’s great stories, the “Inverted Jenny.” The stamp’s engravings were begun only on May 4, less than two weeks before the air mail startup; the printing in sheets of 100 started on May 10, less than a week away.
The 24¢ air mail stamp was a patriotic affair, a white background with blue Curtiss Jenny (the first one to fly the mail, registration 38262) framed in red. The blue and red required separate printing—and some stamps had the second image printed upside down. (In fact, it’s the red frame that’s inverted, not the image of the Jenny.) Three of these sheets were caught in production and destroyed; at least one sheet got through unnoticed.
Stamp collectors had—and continue to have—a ball. On May 14, 1918, a fellow went to a post office and left with the sheet of “inverts” for face value, $24. Within a week, during which postal inspectors tried to buy them back, he sold the stamps to a dealer for $15,000. The dealer immediately resold the sheet for $20,000.
A game of configuration was played, blocks of eight, four or single stamps sold individually. The game continues: A block of four sold for $2,970,000 in 2005. A single stamp went for $977,500 in 2007.
Over the years, six of the 100 have been lost. Others have been damaged—including one sucked into a vacuum cleaner. Only one, used by the wife of the sheet’s third owner, is cancelled.
Don’t try this at home, kids; we’re professionals. But when you must, start from no lower than 3000 ft. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013