The 99s Pennies-A-Pound Airplane Rides are coming soon – September 21and 22, 2019. Come out and fly with us!
During the first World War, the United States had manufactured a significant number of over 10,000 Curtiss JN-4s (called Jennys) to train its military aviators and almost every U.S. airman had learned to fly using the plane. After the war, the U.S. Federal Government sold off the surplus airplanes, including the Jennys, for a fraction of their initial value (the $5,000 purchase price of a Jenny could be reduced to as low as $200). This permitted many of the ex-servicemen, who were already familiar with the JN-4s, to purchase their own planes. The similar-looking Standard J-1 biplane, almost identical in appearance to the Curtiss aircraft, also frequently found itself similarly available.
After the war, some of these ex-servicemen flew throughout the country selling airplane rides in their Jennys or other single engine planes, usually operating from a farmer’s field for a day or two before moving on (thus the term “barnstormer”). “Barnstorming season” ran from early spring until after the harvest and county fairs in the fall. During the 1920s, barnstorming became one of the most popular forms of entertainment across the country. It was also the first major form of civil aviation in the history of flight. For many pilots and stunt people, barnstorming provided an exciting and invigorating way to make a living, not to mention a challenging outlet for their creativity and showmanship. For many rural towns, the appearance of a barnstormer or an aerial troop on the horizon was akin to declaring a national holiday; almost everything in the town would shut down at the spur of the moment so that people could purchase plane rides and watch the show.
One Tuskegee Airman, Lt. Col. Ross, recalls that there were barnstormers who went around Kentucky, city to city, with Ford Tri-motor planes. One Sunday, these barnstormers came to his city and offered rides on the planes — for a penny per pound! So, Lt. Col. Ross paid his fare, went up in the air and was instantly smitten.
Although new federal regulations began to make barnstorming more difficult, some pilots continued to wander the country giving rides as late as the fall of 1941.
Historical information taken from US Centenniel of Flight Commission, Wikipedia, and American House Senior Living Communities