The Curtiss JN-4 was one of the first light aircraft produced in large numbers. Its nickname, the "Jenny," became synonymous with aviation in the 1920s.
It was also the first aircraft flown by Edmonton’s first commercial aviation-related company, May Airplanes, established by brothers Wilfrid (Wop) May and Elgin Court May in 1919. Wop May had served in the Royal Air Force in the First World War, and upon his return to Edmonton, he sought a career in aviation.
On May 22, 1919, the brothers reached an agreement with the City of Edmonton to rent the municipality’s Curtiss JN-4, called “The City of Edmonton,” for $25 a month.
May Airplanes used the Sproule Farm, on the west side of St. Albert Trail around 122 Avenue, as its landing field. In later years the area became known as May Field.
One September 2, 1919, Wop May assisted the Edmonton Police Force in apprehending the killer of a local police constable. The suspect was known to have purchased a train ticket to the coal mining town of Mountain Park. With May at the controls of the “City of Edmonton," he and Detective James Campbell flew to Edson, where the airplane landed for refueling. Unable to fly further given the rugged terrain, Campbell then boarded a train for the remainder of the trip to Mountain Park, where he located and arrested his suspect.
In 1929, May brought worldwide attention to the utility of aircraft, when he answered a plea to fly life-saving serum to Fort Vermillion, a remote community in northern Alberta, after an outbreak of deadly diphtheria. Despite minus-30 temperatures and many mechanical problems over the five-day flight, May and co-pilot Vic Horner completed their daring mission which was reported around the world with banner headlines calling it a "race against death."
May went on to serve as a General Manager of the #2 Air Observer School for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during World War II. That operation was based at Blatchford Field in the very hangar now occupied by the Alberta Aviation Museum.
The museum's 2/3 replica Curtiss Jenny was built and flown by Dan Barnes, who was a long-time volunteer until his death in 2013.