National Geographic: Treasures from the Past


Skilled hands bring

the faded past to life

and reach back to rescue treasures

lost in the wake of time.

Snatched from oblivion,

aglow once more with original splendor

priceless treasures from the past

now live again.

The paths that lead to treasure

are often found

by those who follow a dream.

As a child,

Ken Hyde's dream was to fly.

Today he is an airline pilot.

Ken Hyde lives in rural Virginia.

Here, with his wife and daughter

he pursues a larger dream

and each day that dream

comes closer to fulfillment.

Nestled safely in its hangar

an aeronautical wonder from

another time is coming to life.

Bearing the colors of

the U.S. Army Signal Corps,

it is a Curtiss JN-4D,

one of the famous Jennys

that first took to the skies

after the United States

plunged into World War I.

With advanced designs,

to train young American fliers.

Though she never fought in combat

the Jenny helped redefine

the rules of war...

she taught a generation of pilots

the principles of air power.

After the War in the roaring 20th

heats turned to the sky

cause the bomb stormer

roar across America

Surplus Jennys were expendable prompts

in the area Vaudevilles

which sometimes ended in tragedy.

Today, only fragments remain.

From such meager clues

Ken Hyde has learned

how the plane was built.

It basically was a

hand-built airplane.

They had some automation but

most everything was done by hand.

I didn't see any reason why

I couldn't do that

if I followed the old procedures

and did it pretty much as they did.

And it was a test.

Ken Hyde is returning his Jennys

to the way she was

when this man put her together

in the Curtis Factory

To recover a lost technology

he's become a student of History

Searching through manuals

blueprints and old parts

Here, he finds evidence

hidden in a photograph

to help him reconstruct a wild-shield

Fifteen years ago, Ken Hyde found

the pieces of a Jenny

in a building set for demolition.

Before long

he found the parts of two more.

And there was a time when we had

three airplanes in the basement

of this little 1500-square-foot

house in a subdivision.

I just remember things everywhere

and I didn't know...

I knew it was an airplane but

you know, when you're that small,

you don't realize

that all these little parts and pieces are

really going to go into something that


It almost seems like a dream.

J just remember it being a

very slow process...

something that you looked at.

You didn't touch.

You wanted to help,

and you were politely told

to go do something else.

Out of Ken Hyde's dream,

the shape of a Jenny slowly emerged.

He has spent months on small details

to ensure the historic accuracy of

every nut and bolt,

for the Jenny must be authentic

to be true to his dream.

When I started the airplane

a lot of the workmanship at that time

was geared to just being airworthy.

And over the years

the antique movement has changed;

it's getting more into museum quality

And the value of the airplane is

based on being as authentic

as you possibly can make it.

It's very easy and it's a lot

faster to do it

with modern materials and modern techniques

But more than anything else,

if it's going to be preserved

as a museum piece,

it ought to be just the way

it came from the factory.

Fifteen years of work now

show in every detail.

To cover just one wing

it took days to stitch

the Irish linen by hand.

The family spent endless nights

fraying the cloth tapes

that cover the seams.

Even the varnish formula

took months to develop.

All clear.

Okay, it's coming off the lip now.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "National Geographic: Treasures from the Past" STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 1 Feb. 2023. <>.

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