Friday, 11 March 2011

Harry Dolman's Flying Flea housed in Bristol's M-Shed



Harry Dolman's Flying Flea housed in Bristol's M-Shed

An amusing footnote in the history of aviation gets a mention in this article from the B.B.C. now, as an example of one of the odder aircraft ever to fly is put on display in a museum at Bristol - itself a well-known location in early British aeronautics.

We may look back now at the "Flying Flea" and laugh but in the 1930s powered flight, while barely 30 years old, was big business and already looked upon as having a great future.  However that vision of the future often took the form of every man and his dog buzzing about the skies in little aeroplanes much as people did (and do) in cars and on motorbikes.  "Flying for the masses", with the aeroplane becoming as ubiquitous as the motor car, was still considered a viable possibility - hence the proliferation of aircraft like this Pou-du-Ciel.

Alas numerous stumbling blocks meant we never got to see "skyways" filled with Joe Public in his little aeroplane (probably for the best!) and now the likes of the Flea remain as static museum pieces, a tantalising glimpse into pre-war attitudes to flying and a vision of a future that never was.

2 comments:

  1. Two comments, actually. The article mentions the Douglas 750cc engine Dolman installed. It was an opposed-twin configuration, which a certain German firm licensed after the Great War, apparently hoping to build aircraft like the Pou-du-Ciel. Their emblem is a stylized image of a rotating propeller. Yes, folks, the iconic BMW engine is of British origin.

    Comment two: I have a book of aircraft engines which mentions the Pou-du-Ciel. Although none of the engines installed were powerful enough to provide usable power, the tiny aeroplane was apparently a death-trap in its own right. Static display is the safest way to keep it.

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  2. Both well-made points - thank you for adding them.

    Indeed the Pou-u-Ciel's almost tandem wing layout played havoc with the lifting properties of both wings, causing serious (and, in some cases, fatal) crashes mainly on take-off and landing.

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