By Alyssa Harvey
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) – The Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport holds the hope of a dream.
It started with Harry Balcer of Bainbridge, Ohio, who has loved airplanes since he was a child, and is continuing with Peridot Pictures owner Dorian Walker.
Walker plans to make Balcer’s dream a reality by getting the Curtiss Jenny airplane Balcer was building ready for its first test flight. The plane will be part of his upcoming PBS television special “Jenny.” The one-hour film is scheduled to be released in the fall.
“It was one of the most popular airplanes of its kind,” Walker said as he walked around the plane and its various parts. “We’re taking an icon of aviation that is rarer than a rare steak.”
The Curtiss Jenny is a biplane created in the early 20th century by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co. Glenn Curtiss recruited B. Douglas Thomas, who had worked for Sopwith Aviation Co. in England, to help develop ideas for fighter planes. These became the JN series of planes, which came in six model variations, JN-1 through JN-6. They were called the Jenny and flew in World War I. They were used for aerial stunts in later years.
“Charles Lindbergh learned to fly on a Jenny. Amelia Earhart learned to fly on a Jenny,” Walker said.
Walker decided he wanted to tackle the story of Glenn Curtiss, considered the father of the American aircraft industry, and the aircraft he helped design.
“I’ve been an aviator most of my life. I fly mainly vintage airplanes,” he said. “The story of Glenn Curtiss and the Jenny is not told very often. As I researched it, I fell in love with the story.”
Balcer remembers when he and his friends would play with toy airplanes.
“I’ve been interested in airplanes ever since I was a kid. I built a lot of model airplanes. I was always interested in French Flyers,” he told the Daily News in a phone interview.
In 1979, Balcer bought construction plans for a Jenny from the Smithsonian Institution. Then he did what any other man who was busy with a wife, kids, home and job would do.
“I put them in a drawer,” he said, laughing.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Balcer brought the plans out again. The retired engineer found himself with time to work on the plane.1 2 next >>