If Military Times had a nickel for each time in the past six years that a Kentucky pilot crashed a World War I-era biplane and survived, we’d have 15 cents.
That isn’t enough money to repair the Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” replica that crashed (again) Monday — with no serious injuries — at a Kentucky National Guard training center, but it’s certainly 15 cents more than we expected to have.
The 1917 model plane, one of six — er, five — airworthy Jennies left in the world, crash-landed at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center near Greenville, Kentucky, early Monday evening, according to a Kentucky National Guard press release. Spokesperson Capt. Cody Stagner told Military Times that the plane was returning from an airshow at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, when its engine suddenly lost power, causing the pilot to make a controlled crash-landing.
The plane is the same Jenny built by the Friends of Jenny, a historical non-profit that aims to educate the public about early American military aviation. The organization reportedly invested 10,000 technician hours into building the plane, which mostly aligned with the original manufacturer’s specifications.
And it’s the same Jenny that crashed on a Bowling Green, Kentucky, golf course in 2017, according to the Bowling Green Daily News. The pilot survived with minor injuries.
Its owner, Dorian Walker, wasn’t at the controls for that crash. He spearheaded a fundraising effort to get the plane back into the air while also overseeing the group’s other WWI-era restoration project — the world’s last airworthy de Havilland DH-4 biplane.
But Walker was at the sticks when the DH-4 crashed in May 2020.
After walking away from the 2020 crash unscathed, Walker told local reporters that his survival was “a testimony to how well-built this plane is.”
Walker was one of two pilots involved in Monday’s crash as well.
His biplane flying days may be over, though.
Walker’s wife, Elaine Walker, told the Bowling Green Daily News that the wreckage could “easily” be restored for a museum display after the Federal Aviation Administration completes its investigation of the crash. But getting it back into the air again?
“To restore it to fly again would be a little more complex.”
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.