A flea making the news on both sides of the Atlantic, Part 2
Welcome back, my reading friend. Are we ready? Let’s go. As promised, please find enclosed on few words on Canada’s first Mignet HM-14 Pou du Ciel. Before we get there, however, yours truly would like to point out an oddity concerning the Pou du Ciel. English speaking aviation enthusiasts usually called this airplane the Flying Flea, a moniker that translates as Puce volante. A more literal translation of Pou du Ciel would be Sky Louse, which does not quite feel right, at least according to me, but I digress. So back to our story.
Canada’s first Pou du Ciel, as far as we know, was built under contract by George S. Lace of Montréal, Québec, an air engineer with Canadian Airways Limited, the largest air transport company / bush operator in Canada at the time. The gentleman who paid the bills and registered the Pou du Ciel, in March 1936, was a surgeon who had served in a military hospital during the First World War. Dr. Georges-Étienne Millette was also one of the founding members of the Montreal Light Aeroplane Club.
This Pou du Ciel was not the first airplane this doctor had been involved with. In August 1930, a year or so after obtaining his private pilot licence, Millette had acquired a small airplane, an Aeromarine-Klemm AKL-25 if you must know. This small two seat monoplane, an American-made version of a successful German machine, the Klemm L 25, was damaged beyond repair in a crash, in August 1934. Who was at the controls at the time was not known but one hopes that he or she was not injured. In any event, the freedom gained through owning an aircraft was such that Millette went ahead with financing the construction of the Pou du Ciel. Interestingly, this airplane may have been one of the first, if not the first machine of this type to be fitted with skis, made especially for it.
In the spring of 1936, pioneer bush pilot Stuart Graham, one of the district inspectors of the Civil Aviation Branch of the Department of National Defence and an individual mentioned in a December 2017 issue of this blog / bulletin / thingee, officially flew the Pou du Ciel at the request of Millette, who was a friend. He concluded that Mignet’s design might prove dangerous in certain circumstances, prophetic words as it turned out. In early July 1936, at Saint-Hubert, Millette’s Pou du Ciel dove into the ground when the engine cut out just after take off. While its young pilot, Eric Webster, walked away with a few bruises, the airplane never flew again. Its engine was offered for sale in a small ad published in the April 1938 issue of the monthly magazine Canadian Aviation. Yours truly wonders if Eric Webster might not be Eric Taylor Webster, a gentleman who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.
A lot more could be said about Henri Mignet and his creation, the Pou du Ciel, one of the most controversial light airplanes of its day. Improved versions came out after the Second World War, for example. As you must know by now, my reading friend, yours truly is chafing at the bit to keep on typing, and typing, and typing. I shall, however, refrain from doing so. For now.