Powell Crosley's Flying Flea

Flying Flea R/C model by Esprit Tech - RF CafeCrosley Moonbeam Biplane - RF CafeSomehow, I missed this. After attending the funeral for my uncle Rick Blattenberger at Arlington National Cemetery (he was a decorated Army Ranger during the Vietnam era), Melanie and I spent a few hours at the nearby Udvar-Hazy Center 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 radios. For 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 - RF Cafe

Powell Crosley's Flying Flea

From the 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 landing gear.

Country of Origin: France

Date: 1935

Location: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, VA

Hangar: Boeing Aviation Hangar

Type: CRAFT-Aircraft

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

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