Pitts Specials – The Choice of Champions!
The team use the Pitts S2 aircraft. The S2 has been used by teams in the US, Europe, Africa and the Far East and is a proven air display favourite. The biplane has a special appeal to airshow crowds and has been displaying in various guises since it’s unveiling at Homestead, Florida in 1946. The aircraft was designed and built by aircraft engineer and keen aerobatic pilot Curtis Pitts – it proved to be so popular that it has been in constant production to this day, the factory now resides in Afton, Wyoming and in addition to building and supporting the S2 Pitts, they manufacture the Aviat Huskey.
Flying the Pitts
The Pitts Special is the world’s leading high performance aerobatic biplane. In the USA the Pitts Special has won more unlimited-class aerobatic contests than any other aircraft type. Some pilots think about flying airplanes almost every day. They make imaginary flights while driving their car or even at their desk and sometimes imagining can seem better than actually flying but never in a Pitts! It’s an experience that’s almost impossible to describe. You think “turn” and you turn. You think “roll” and you roll. Turn it over and it flies just as if it were right side up. Even after several hundred hours, each flight is an exhilarating, awesome experience. So if Wildcat Aerobatics ever asks you to go for a ride, be prepared to be infected with an incurable passion because there is nothing, absolutely nothing that flies like a Pitts.
The Pitts S2B
Our two-seat Pitts S-2Bs differ from the earlier S2A versions of the aircraft in having a 260 hp (194 kW) Textron Lycoming AEIO-540-D4A5 flat-six engine, and was designed to be capable of unlimited aerobatics carrying two persons. The heavier power plant necessitated moving the wings and landing gear forward about 6 inches (15 cm), and make possible more room in the front cockpit.
The prototype S-2B was completed during September 1982. Its capability was demonstrated shortly afterwards when Clint McHenry, carrying a passenger, took first place in the Advanced Category at the US Nationals held at Sherman, Texas.
The Pitts Story
Curtis Pitts began the design of a single-seat aerobatic biplane in 1943-1944. The design has been refined continuously since the prototype’s first flight in September 1944; however, all single-seat (S-1) and two-seat (S-2) Pitts Specials are variations on the basic design from 1944 and our Pitts S2Bs still remains quite close to the original in concept and in design.
The aircraft was popularized by Betty Skelton, Caro Bayley and other air show performers, which led to the offering of plans in 1962 when Curtis Pitts set up Pitts Enterprises to sell plans of the Pitts S-1C to home builders. It is widely accepted that the Pitts Special is the standard by which all other aerobatic aircraft are judged.
While many home-built aircraft were built in the 1960s, earning the Pitts S-1 a reputation as an excellent aerobatic aircraft, Pitts worked on the design of a two-seat aerobatic trainer version, the Pitts S-2, which first flew in 1967 and gained its type certificate in 1971. Factory-built aircraft produced by the Aerotek company at Afton, Wyoming were joined in production by the single-seat S-1S in 1973.
The design’s popularity grew significantly following Bob Herendeen’s participation on the USA Aerobatic Team in a Pitts Special in the World Aerobatic Competition in Moscow, Russia in 1966 and in 1972, the US National Aerobatic Team won the World Championships flying only Pitts biplanes. Sadly, Bob Herendeen died in 1994 in an accident flying a Christen Eagle.
The Pitts held sway over the aerobatic world championships until the rise of the monoplane like the Edge flown by Wildcat 3 – David Jenkins, although it remains very competitive in all levels of competition and remains a favorite of air show performers worldwide.
In 1977 Curtis Pitts sold his interests in the Pitts S-1 and S-2 to Doyle Child who later sold the rights in 1981 to Frank Christenson, who continued production at the Afton plant under the guise of Christen Industries. It was during this period that our S2Bs were built. The rights for home-built versions of the Pitts were sold in 1994 to Steen Aero Lab, with the Afton factory and production rights being transferred to Aviat who support the Pitts to this day.
Curtis Pitts died in 2005 at the age of 89.
The Pitts Family Tree
- S-1: Basic single-seat Pitts aerobatic biplane with a flat aerofoil section and lower wing ailerons only, fitted with a variety of engines. Two were built, the first named Special and the second Li’l Stinker.
- S-1C: Amateur-built S-1 single-seat aircraft, flat bottom wing with ailerons on lower wing only, designed for 180 hp engines. First flown in 1960, the S-1 is currently available as a plans-built aircraft from Steen Aero Lab.
- S-1D: Amateur-built S-1C with ailerons on all four wings, generally similar to S-1S.
- S-1E: Amateur-built S-1C using factory-produced kits. Uses symmetrical airfoil.
- S-1F: Outside derivative homebuilt, with the Falcon wing. Square tips, 25% more aileron span. In the UK, this model is fitted with a 200 hp Monty Barrett engine, and a lightweight Hoffmann VP propeller.
- S-1S: Aerotek-built certified S-1C for competition aerobatics, rounded aerofoil section, four ailerons and powered by a 180 hp Lycoming AEIO-360-B4A; 61 have been built. This model is also available from Aviat Aircraft as a plans-built aircraft.
- S1-SS: Similar to the certified S1-S “Roundwing”. 180 to 200+ hp single-seat, homebuilt, symmetrical wing, four symmetrical “Super-Stinker” style ailerons, 300 degree/s roll rate, fixed pitch propeller. This model is available in plans and components form from Steen Aero Lab.
- S1-1T Aerotek-built S-1C with a 200 hp Lycoming AEIO-360-A1E; 64 have been built. Four-aileron, single-seat, factory-built, symmetrical wing, symmetrical ailerons, constant speed two or three-blade Hartzell propeller. The top wing was moved forward compared to the S-1S for weight and balance. This model is in production from Aviat Aircraft as an “on-demand” manufacture product.
- S-1-11B: Known as Model 11 “Super Stinker“, 300+ hp Lycoming, four-aileron, single-seat, experimental-plans or factory-built and factory component parts, symmetric airfoil, three-blade constant speed prop, rolls better than 300 degree/s, climbs better than 3,000 ft/min.
- S-2 Scaled up S-1 with tandem two-seat fuselage and powered by a 200 hp Lycoming AEIO-360-B4A piston engine.
- S-2A: Aerotek-built with a 200 hp Lycoming AEIO-360-A1A four cylinder piston engine, constant speed propeller. Later builds have a longer landing gear and a 2-inch-wider (51 mm) front cockpit; 259 were built.
- S-2B: Aerotek-built with a 260 hp Lycoming AEIO-540-D4A5 six cylinder engine, and upper wing auxiliary fuel tank, the landing gear and upper wings were moved forward six inches. 196 were built and although the aircraft is out of production it is still supported by Aviat Aircraft.
- S-2C: This current production model is four aileron, two-seat, factory-built, symmetric airfoil, 260 hp Lycoming driving constant speed three-blade propeller. This was an evolution of the S-2B model, with improved ailerons and rudder, flat bottom fuselage, lower profile bungee gear, better inverted handling and certified for +6 -5g. It is still in production in by Aviat Aircraft.
- S-2E: Amateur-built S-2A from factory-produced kits.
- S-2S: Aerotek-built S-2B with a single cockpit and a twin tank fuel system. The fuselage is shortened by 14 inches (35 cm) forward of the cockpit to allow the installation of the heavier 260 hp Lycoming AEIO-540-D4A5. The wingspan is 20 ft, 0 inches (6.10 m); 17 were built. This model is currently out of production, but supported by Aviat Aircraft.
- S-2SE: Amateur-built S-2S from factory-produced kits.
Pitts S2B Technical Specs
- Two-seat aerobatic biplane.
- Christen Industries, Inc., Afton Wyoming
- Braced biplane type, with single faired interplane strut each side of N-type cabane struts.
- Two-spar spruce structure with fabric covering.
- Ailerons on both upper and lower wings, with aerodynamic ‘spade’ balances on lower ailerons.
- No flaps or tabs.
- Welded steel tube structure, covered with wooden stringers, covered with Ceconite 102 except for aluminium top decking and side panels.
- Wire-braced steel-tube structure.
- Fixed surfaces fabric covered, control surfaces fabric covered.
- Trim tab in each elevator.
- Non-retractable tailwheel type.
- Rubber-cord shock-absorption.
- Steerable tailwheel.
- Streamlined fairings on main wheels.
- One 260 hp (194 kW) Textron Lycoming AEIO-540-D4A5 flat-six engine.
- Hartzell two-blade constant-speed metal propeller with spinner.
- Tow Fuel tanks, one in fuselage immediately aft of firewall and one auxiliary tank in centre section of top wing. Total capacity 29 US gallons (110 litres; 24 Imp gallons).
- Refuelling point on upper surface forward of windscreen.
- Oil capacity 3 US gallons (11.35 litres; 2.5 Imp gallons).
- Inverted fuel and oil systems standard.
- Two seats in tandem cockpits, with dual controls.
- Sideways opening one-piece canopy covers both cockpits.
- Space for 20 lb (9.1 kg) baggage aft of rear seat when flown in non-aerobatic category.
- Wing span, upper: 20 ft 0 in (6.10 m)
- Wing span, lower: 19 ft 0 in (5.79 m)
- Wing chord (constant, both): 3 ft 4 in (1.02 m).
- Length overall: 18 ft 9 in (5.71 m)
- Height overall: 6 ft 7½ in (2.02 m)