High School Aviation Students Restore Historical Biplane Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny"


The Fully Restored Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny"

Kentucky is truly making a name for itself in the world of Aerospace education. Recent modifications to the professional flight program at Eastern Kentucky University have put it on the map as one of the top-ranking aerospace schools in the nation. The Aviation Museum of Kentucky offers summer camps for young kids to have an introduction to aviation and their first experiences in aircraft.

Masterfully filling the gap between introduction to aviation and professional training in Kentucky is The Institute for Aerospace Education. This high school program was formed with the simple mission of helping improve students’ STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) through the context of aerospace. Since its inception in 2010, more than 23 school districts have been added to the network and begun offering aviation classes in their curriculum.

One of these network schools is located in Tompkinsville. Jon Foote facilitates and teaches the aviation classes for students of Tompkinsville high school at Monroe County Airport (KTZY.) As well as being the owner of the FBO, Foote offers maintenance services to aircraft in need. Through his maintenance service, Foote was contacted by filmmaker Dorian Walker asking to help him restore some work on his Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" aircraft. Seeing the perfect opportunity to expose his aviation students to a great piece of history, he got permission to let the high school kids help with the restoration.

Proud aircraft owner Dorian Walker

The work took a year to complete, with several students working every day. Three students in particular took the project to heart, spending multiple hours on the weekends working on the plane. Originally built in 1917, the biplane helped train pilots in World War I. After the war the model proved fundamental to the barnstorming age and helped make civil aviation prominent during the 1920s.

Many non-aviation individuals will recognize the historical plane from a postal stamp that was an accidental misprint, showing an inverted Jenny. Because only one sheet was printed featuring this mistake, it has become extremely rare and valuable. A single stamp sold for $977,500 in 2007. A version of this stamp has recently come back into circulation to celebrate National Stamp Collecting Month.

It is amazing that high school students have had the opportunity be around a plane with such historical significance while experiencing maintenance procedures firsthand. The work is now complete and the aircraft has more exciting things on its horizons. Jenny 38262 will be joining six other flying Jenny biplanes in a trip around the country, and will be made available to educational groups for exhibition. There is also talk of this exact Jenny being on display at AirVenture 2014.