Bits and Pieces
From the Archives - July 1963 - The 'Modern' Flying Fleas
By Ian Brown, Editor - Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159
Fifty years ago this month an article appeared in Sport Aviation regarding the Flying Flea. It was written by Georges Jacquemin, EAA 3618, who was living in Streetsville, Ontario, at the time. Henri Mignet, designer of the Flying Flea (called Pou du Ciel, literally the "Sky Louse" in French), was somewhat of a rebel.
He began designing and flying his aircraft before it was legal to do so, to the disapproval of the French establishment. Apparently the official aircraft manufacturing industry in France was supported by the taxpayer, and buyers of the aircraft were actually given a subsidy directly from the government. Now there's a way to encourage aviation!
Mignet started designing aircraft only nine years after the Wright brothers' flight of December 17, 1903, and completed his first powered aircraft design in 1920. As mentioned in Sport Aviation, the famous HM14 Flying Flea became banned for a while after eight deaths were reported in 1935 to 1936. Apparently the CG and too little elevator authority were found to be the culprits.
Once these were corrected, the aircraft seemed to have found favour with amateur builders. A new airfoil was chosen, and the relative positions of the two wings were changed, in addition to adopting push rods to connect to the control surfaces.
This fascinating design had neither ailerons nor elevators, and the rudder and tandem wing coordination was accomplished without pedals, using a simple control stick. It is almost as if Monsieur Mignet was trying to emulate the flight control system of birds, which do not have distinct ailerons or elevators, either.
Jacquemin apparently became the U.S. representative for Mignet aircraft designs, and the last trace of him appears to be a reference on the EAA website about the Flying Flea, which indicated he was living in Morgan Hill, California. After some sleuthing on the Internet, we found he passed away at age 74 in 1994.
Close to 50 articles regarding the fabulous Flying Flea family have appeared in EAA publications, and your editor has seen at least three examples in museums as far apart as Prague, Czechoslovakia; Bedford, United Kingdom; and Oshkosh, Wisconsin. There are at least 31 of these designs on display in aviation museums all over the world. Mignet apparently traveled from his home in France as far afield as Argentina and the United States. Read the July 1963 article
Having had the pleasure of visiting Chicago Executive (Palwaukee) Airport near Chicago, Illinois, where the photograph of Mignet was taken, the author recalls the use of single-earpiece headsets in the restaurant so that the guests can listen to the radio chatter. It's a nice idea and could make a trip to your airport restaurant more interesting.