Curtiss JN-4 “Canuck” (Jenny)

During the First World War, the Royal Flying Corps set flying schools in Canada, beginning in 1917. The Royal Flying Corps selected the Curtiss JN‑3 “Jenny” two-seater biplane as the training aircraft of choice. The type was then manufactured in Canada under license by Canadian Aeroplanes Limited, and the Canadian version was given the designation JN‑4 “Canuck”. The JN-4 incorporated several design changes requested by the Royal Flying Corps, including the substitution of a joy stick for the control wheel and constructing tail units principally of metal instead of wood.

The Canuck went on to become numerically the most important trainer of Canadian and British pilots and the design lent itself to a wide variety of training purposes, including air‑to‑air gunnery, photography and wireless radio training. Royal Flying Corps training schools in both Canada and the United States of America used the aircraft extensively.

RCAF historian S.F. Wise notes that the “designation chosen for the Canadian-built aircraft has caused confusion ever since because the Curtiss Company in the United States had also developed an aircraft called the JN-4”.

After the war, numerous JN‑4 Canucks made their way into civilian use. The Canadian government received more than 50 JN‑4 aircraft as part of a post-war Imperial gift, but only 10 of these aircraft saw active use in the Canadian Air Force of the 1920s.

JN-4 Details
Role trainer
Taken on strength 1917
Struck off strength 1924
Number 2,320
Service Royal Flying Corps / Canadian Air Force


JN-4 Specifications
Manufacturer Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd.
Crew / Passengers two pilots in tandem or one pilot plus one passenger
Powerplant one 90 horsepower Curtiss OX‑2 or OX‑5 piston engine
Maximum speed 74 miles per hour (121 kilometres per hour)
Cruising speed 60 miles per hour (96.5 kilometres per hour)
Service ceiling 11,000 feet (3,353 metres)
Endurance Just over two hours
Weight (empty) 1,390 pounds (631 kilograms)
Weight (gross) 1,920 pounds (872 kilograms)
Upper span 43 feet 7 inches (13.29 metres)
Lower span 34 feet 8inches (10.57 metres)
Length 27 feet 3 inches (8.29 metres)      
Height 9 feet 11 inches (3.02 metres)
Wing area 361 square feet (33.5 square metres)
Armament Provision for forward firing Vickers machine gun or flexible Scharff-ring mounted machine gun in rear cockpit
Cost $5,465 U.S.

Source: Canadian Combat and Support Aircraft: A Military Compendium by T.F.J. Leversedge © 2007. Reproduced with permission of the author.

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The completed prototype JN-4 “Canuck,” a modified Curtiss JN-3 “Jenny”, at Canadian Aeroplanes Limited in January 1917.

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A Curtiss JN-4 in flight over Camp Borden, Ontario.  

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A Curtiss JN-4 fitted with “snow skids” at Armour Heights, Ontario, in February 1918. The wing left behind at Armour Heights while the RFCC’s other two wings went to Texas for winter training in 1917-18 pioneered cold weather flying in Canada.