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Fun at the Flying Circus!

It was around 1920 (Roaring Twenties in the United States) that barnstorming became popular. Back then, the Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” was produced as a training aircraft for the U.S. Army during World War I. Once the war was over, the government had an excess of these airplanes. They sold off the planes to civilians who were mostly pilots.

At first, the pilots went from town to town to offer joyrides to people. But once that excitement died down, there were not many people who wanted an ordinary plane ride.

The pilots then came up with crazy tricks that were performed in the air to attract people. Some of the stunts that were performed were dangerous acrobatic spins and manoeuvres, loops and barrel rolls, stall turns and wing-overs, wing walking, skydiving, stunt parachuting and even switching planes in mid-air! These acts were nicknamed barnstorming.

The barnstorming season would usually begin in early spring and end in the fall. The pilots would advertise by flying over a small rural town to attract the attention of the local people. They would then land at a local farm and borrow or rent a field from a farmer for the day. Once the deal was on, they would drop flyers from their planes while flying many low passes over the town with their engines roaring at full force. Most of the local folks probably had never seen planes so close before.

Many times, the entire town was shut down as if it was a public holiday! The atmosphere was carnival like. Parties and dances were organised to celebrate the occasion.

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excess – extra
civilian – people not in the army or police
joyride – a fun ride
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