Somehow, I missed
this. After attending the funeral for my uncle Rick Blattenberger at
Cemetery (he was a decorated Army Ranger during the Vietnam era),
Melanie and I spent a few hours at the nearby
annex of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. I photographed a lot of cool stuff, including
electronics packages used on airplanes, rockets, balloons, and satellites, but in some inexplicable
way I managed to not see this bright red "Flying
Flea" that was owned by Powell Crosley, Jr., owner of the Crosley Radio Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. It wasn't until a couple nights ago when
I saw it featured in the April/May issue of Air &
Space magazine that I even knew it existed.
Mr. Crosley's company dabbled in many types of domestic products other than just
a few decades it produced washing machines, refrigerators, freezers, televisions, electric and gas cooking
ranges, airplanes, and trucks and cars. Powell also owned the Cincinnati Reds baseball team for a few
years. The Crosley brand lives on today as a producer of retro radio sets and telephones as well as
air conditioners, washers and dryers, refrigerators, and furniture.
Powell Crosley's Flying Flea
Udvar-Hazy Annex of the National Air & Space Museum
Frenchman Henri Mignet designed the HM.14 Pou du Ciel (Flying Flea) in 1933. He envisioned a simple
aircraft that amateurs could build and even teach themselves to fly. In an attempt to render the aircraft
stall-proof and safe for amateur pilots to fly, Mignet staggered the two main wings. The HM.14 enjoyed
a period of intense popularity in France and England but a series of accidents in 1935-36 permanently
blackened the airplane's reputation.
This Mignet-Crosley Pou du Ciel is the first HM.14 made and flown in the United States. Edward Nirmaier
and two other men built the airplane in November 1935 for Nirmaier's boss, Powel Crosley, Jr. Crosley
was president of the Crosley Radio Corporation. He believed that the Flea might become a popular aircraft
in the United States. After several flights, a crash at the Miami Air Races in December 1935 grounded
the Crosley HM.14 for good. In 1960 Patrick H. "Pat" Packard donated this Pou du Ciel to the Smithsonian.
In 1987 Packard and Patti Koppa finished restoring the aircraft. The original ABC Scorpion engine was
missing, so these two artisans fabricated a wooden replica.
Gift of Patrick H. Packard.
Physical Description: Open-cockpit, staggered wing biplane w/ tractor engine and fixed, tailwheel-type
Country of Origin: France
Location: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, VA
Hangar: Boeing Aviation Hangar
Dimensions: Wingspan: 5.2 m (17 ft)
Length: 3.6 m (11 ft 10 in)
Height: 1.7 m (5 ft 6 in)
Weight: 159 kg (350 lb)
Engine: ABC Scorpion air-cooled, two-cylinder, 39 horsepower.
Crew: 1 Designer: Henri Mignet
Builder: Edward Nirmaier
Posted April 5, 2016