No. 10639. Mignet HM.14 Pou du ciel
Photographed at Pithiviers, France, ca. 1958, by Pierre Bregerie

Mignet HM.14 Pou du ciel

05/31/2011. Remarks by Johan Visschedijk: "Throughout the 1920s, Frenchman Henri Mignet built a succession of self-designed light aircraft. In 1933 he arrived at his definitive design, the fourteenth, designated HM.14 and named Pou du ciel (Flying Flea). The HM.14 was a peculiar design. It featured a bath-tub-like plywood box fuselage with a motor-cycle engine for power. It had a fin but no tailplane, instead Mignet used a tandem wing arrangement. The rear wing was fixed, while the front surface pivoted to provide pitch control. There was no elevator, and no ailerons: roll control was achieved with the rudder.

Mignet managed to fly this contraption in 1934 and wrote a book called Le Sport de l'Air, containing detailed plans and urging other amateur aviators to build their own Pou du ciel. At that time he was a more convincing writer than he was an aerodynamicist, soon the book was translated into English as The Flying Flea and circulated by the Air League of the British Empire. Six thousand copies were sold in Britain in one month and soon more than 600 Pou du ciel were being built in England and many more in France.

Pou du ciel fever swept Europe, yet few of the aircraft ever flew, their builders were mostly ignorant of the special needs of aircraft construction, they used unsuitable materials which were under-strength or too heavy. And those that did fly did so badly as the aircraft had a design fault: interference between front and rear wings could produce a nose-down pitch which put the aircraft into an uncontrolled and ever-steepening dive. Of the early Flying Fleas there were eleven fatal crashes, hence flying permits were withdrawn in 1937 and a large number of the Pou du ciels disappeared without a trace.

Henri Mignet solved the problem by fitting a movable flap to the rear wing surface, but by then Pou du ciel had died and public confidence in the aircraft had been lost. Mignet himself continued to develop versions of his Pou du ciel with great success until his death in 1965. The Pou du ciel concept has not died with Mignet, however, as seen by the number of similar aircraft that have been designed and/or constructed by others thereafter, including the Croses LC-6 Criquet and EC-8 Tourisme, the Croses-Bujon B-EC-7 Tout-Terrain, the Croses-Noel CN-1, and even from scrap designed and the Australian Price Flying Flea."

Created May 31, 2011