The Early Bird "Jenny" is approximately a 2/3 version
of the Curtiss JN4-D World ar I Trainer that took part in many
firsts in American aviation history (first combat aircraft, first
mail airplane, etc). Of course she is probably best known as the
favorite airplane of the barn stormers during the 1920's. Though
similar in appearance to the original, the construction of the Early
Bird "Jenny" takes advantage of modern high strength, more durable
materials that also speed the building process.
The fuselage is built of strong aircraft 4130
chromoly steel (a proven construction material with several million
flying hours in aircraft like Cubs, Taylorcraft, etc.). The
wings are built of 6061-T6 aluminum tube spars and pre-stamped
aluminum ribs. Standard 2.7 oz. dacron fabric covers the airplane
using the Canadian Hipec paint system that eliminates time consuming
The paint scheme, of course, is a personal option
(W.W. I trainer, barn stormer, etc.) and is a lot of fun to plan.
The wheels (used motorcycle or new wheels from Loehle Aircraft) make
for easy ground handling with their built-in brakes, yet they look
like the old, original wheels.
The airframe is capable of using a number of
different two or 4 stroke engines in the 130-150 lb., 45-65 HP
range. The original 46HP Rotax 503 SC in the prototype did a
reasonable job of hauling two average sized people here in Colorado
at over 5000 feet and burned about 3 1/2 GPH - that engine never
missed a lick in over 300 hours (and it is now flying in another
If you are really on a budget, there are some good
used engines out there for as little as $500 that will keep your
total cost down to about $5000 ready to fly. On the other hand, a
new dual ignition 65HP, water cooled Rotax 582 has a great power to
weight ratio. If you want lower fuel consumption (without mixing
oil!), and better sound you might want to try a 4-stroke engine in
the right power and weight range.
A Rotax 912 is the right size and weight. The Geo
Metro may be an option for those willing to take on an engine
project. A 60 HP Franklin or some of the newer, lighter weight
aircraft engines may work well for those wanting an off the shelf
The empty weight can be kept down to about 420
lbs. if you use a two stroke engine of about 100 - 125 lbs. with
electric start, battery, prop, etc and the optional aluminum frame
rudder and elevator to give you a full 380 lbs. of useful load.
That equates to about a 200-foot take-off roll at sea level (100
foot or less single seat! ). Due to her large wing area, you also
have a very good angle of climb for those short fields with 50 foot
obstacles all around.
The empty weight will be about 450 lbs. with a
four stroke engine and slight airframe modifications can give you
full gross weight of 900 lbs. Slow flying where nothing happens very
fast is one of the great joys of flying your 2/3 "Jenny"! Like the
great old biplanes of the past, you have a bit more time to react
compared to the hot, short-coupled designs of today.
Her three axis
flight characteristics are pretty well described as "Cub-loke" with
a fair amount of rudder available and about a three and a half to
four seconds 45 deg - 45 deg roll rate. I've flown her for as long
as 45 minutes without touching the stick (something that you
couldn't do with an original "Jenny").
Although her flight speeds are similar to the original, she has a
better climb performance due to the improved power to weight ratio.
A good climb out and approach speed is in the 45-50 MPH area with
about 70 MPH straight and level full throttle and 60-65 MPH at
cruise (q 65 HP engine will do a bit better, of course).
loves little grass fields and, as mentioned before, she is quite
capable of short take-offs and landings. With a roller blade wheel sttached to the tail skid you can happily land and taxi on modern,
larger hard surface airports but be ready to deal with a lot of
attention and interest in your unique litle "Jenny" - Boy does she
bring out the smiles on people's faces!
36570 Hidden River Rd.
Hinkley, CA 92347
The above courtesy of