Le Pou du Ciel (the flying flea)
Literally the sky louse, but known better as the Flying Flea, Frenchman Henri Mignet's unique ultralight Mignet Pou-du-Ciel was almost certainly the first aircraft of which plans were readily available to amateur constructors. Henri Mignet was himself an amateur and an enthusiast but, because of his lack of experience in aircraft construction, ignored traditional aerodynamics and engineering in finalising his design. His aim was to produce an easy-to-fly aeroplane that would enable hundreds of enthusiasts to gain flight experience in the cheapest possible way - very much like today's Microlights.
First he sought inherent stability, using a low slung fuselage with two wings of almost equal size, fore and aft, dispensing with a conventional tailplane and mounting the forward wing so that its incidence could be varied to provide control in pitch. Mignet relied upon dihedral of the two wings to give lateral stability, and had a large rudder for directional control. The pilot had only a single stick for control purposes, moved fore and aft to control the aircraft longitudinally, and from side to side to change direction.
Mignet then produced a Manual, giving plans and instruction for building the Pou, and a large number of European enthusiasts in France, the USSR, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom, were soon busy building their own aircraft. A number of fatal accidents resulted in the type being banned in France and this, coupled with the outbreak of the Second World War, brought a halt to an amateur building programme that could be numbered in hundreds. Mignet continued to develop his design, resolving the shortcomings and finally founding Avioes Mignet do Brasil at San Paulo, Brazil in 1953. There he began production of the Mignet H.M. 310 Estafette, a two-seat enclosed version of the Pou. Despite improved capability and reliability, the new machine could not compete against the new post-war lightweights and Henry Mignet's dream finally faded into aviation history.
Built locally from original plans in 1996, the Museum's single-seat Le Pou du Ciel H.M.14 is a replica of the 14th Model of the famous aircraft. Power is provided by a converted Citroen 2CV four-stroke vehicle engine.