Quest for Performance: The Evolution
of Modern Aircraft
- Part I: THE AGE OF
- Chapter 3: The Lean Years,
-  The pace of
aircraft development and production was extremely slow during the
time period from the armistice in November 1918 until about 1926.
World War I was thought to be the war "to end all wars," the war
"to make the world safe for democracy." Postwar military
appropriations, including funds for new aircraft, were accordingly
small. The primary financial base underlying the development and
production of new aircraft and advanced technology had dried up.
The military made use of leftover and modified aircraft from World
War 1, of which the DeHavilland DH-4, previously described, was a
prime example. In fact, the DH-4 continued to serve in various
capacities in the Army Air Corps of the United States until the
early 1930's. There was, of course, some development activity
sponsored by both the Army and the Navy, and a number of
prototypes of new aircraft were produced. These prototypes,
however, usually followed the familiar biplane formula that
emerged from World War I. Some small production contracts,
generally, no more than 15 or 20 aircraft, were placed with the
existing manufacturers for some of these prototypes. Hence, the
industry did not entirely collapse.
- The requirements of civil aviation during
this time period presented little incentive for advanced aircraft
developments. No airlines devoted to the transportation of
passengers existed in the United States; however, the Government
operated a primitive airmail service that linked various cities in
the United States, and the first coast-to-coast airmail service
was established in 1921. The aircraft employed for carrying the
malls consisted mostly of surplus World War I aircraft, with the
ubiquitous DH-4 as the mainstay of the operation. Many
modifications were made to the DH to make it more suitable for
airmail service, and the aircraft was so utilized until at least
1927 or 1928.
-  General aviation
as we know it today existed only in the form of barnstormers.
These gypsy pilots roamed the country from town to town offering
5- to 10-minute rides for sums of around $5.00. The aircraft that
served as the workhorse for the gypsy pilot was the Curtiss JN-4
or jenny. This aircraft was a trainer that served during World War
I to introduce thousands of neophytes to the mysteries of flying.
In the decade following World War I, many young people, children
and teenagers alike, were introduced to the wonderful world of
flight by the sight of a Jenny gracefully gliding to a landing in
a pasture close to the family homestead. Once seen and heard, the
sight and sound of this ancient biplane with its slow-turning
engine and the whistling noise of the wind through the bracing
wires made an indelible impression on many young people in the
1920's and served as a springboard for their later entry into some
aspect of aviation. The jenny was similar in configuration and
construction to the DH-4 shown in figures 2.26 and 2.27
2), but, instead of having an
engine of 400 horsepower, it was equipped with the 90-horsepower
Curtiss OX-5 or the 150-horsepower Wright-Hispano. Most models of
the jenny used by barnstormers had the 90-horsepower engine and
were designated JN-41). The aircraft was quite slow and had a
cruising speed that did not differ very much from the stalling
speed. By today's standards, the handling characteristics of the
jenny would be considered unacceptable (shown by the data in ref.
101). The Curtiss Jennys, however, were available in
large numbers following the end of World War I and could be
purchased for as little as a few hundred dollars. Obviously, no
new aircraft suited to the demands of the barnstormers could be
developed and provided no market for the development and
production of new aircraft.
- A Curtiss JN-4H with the Wright-Hispano
engine is shown in figure 3.1, and the characteristics of this
version of the Jenny are given in table II (appendix A).
- Figure 3.1 - Curtiss JN-4H
Jenny trainer; 1918. [NASA]