Pitts Special

Pitts Special
Pitts Special
S1 / S2
Pitts S-1S
Role Aerobatic biplane
National origin United States
Manufacturer Aviat (current)
Designer Curtis Pitts
First flight September 1944
Lil Stinker in the Smithsonian
Modified S-1S
Modified S-1S
Christen Industries S-2B Pitts Special belonging to the Pitts Specials Formation Aerobatic Team
2001 Aviat Pitts S-2C
S1-11b Pitts Special
Pitts S-2A
Cockpit of Pitts S-2A
Pitts S-2B
Pitts S-1E
Pitts S-1T

The Pitts Special (company designations S1 and S2) is a series of light aerobatic biplane designed by Curtis Pitts. It has accumulated many competition wins since its first flight in 1944. The Pitts biplanes dominated world aerobatic competition in the 1960s and 1970s and, even today, remains a potent competition aircraft in the lower categories.[1][2]


Design and development

Curtis Pitts began the design of a single-seat aerobatic biplane in 1943–1944.[3] The design has been refined continuously since the prototype's first flight in September 1944, however, the current Pitts S2 still remains quite close to the original in concept and in design.[4]

Several of the aircraft that Curtis Pitts built had a picture of a skunk on them and were called "Stinkers". After she bought it, aerobatic performer Betty Skelton called the second aircraft that Curtis built, "Lil' Stinker". The prototype S-2, which was the first two-seat Pitts, was "Big Stinker", the prototype Model 11 (later called S1-11B) was "Super Stinker", and the prototype Model 12 was the "Macho Stinker".[5]

In 1962 Curtis Pitts set up Pitts Enterprises to sell plans of the S-1C to homebuilders.[6]

Operational history

All single-seat (S-1) and two-seat (S-2) Pitts Specials are variations on the basic design from 1944.

The aircraft was popularized by Betty Skelton, Caro Bayley and other air show performers, which led to the offering of plans in 1962.[6]

Pitts produced limited numbers of aircraft during the 1940s and 1950s. It is widely accepted that the Pitts Special is the standard by which all other aerobatic aircraft are judged. After a number of home-built aircraft were produced from rough hand-drawn plans produced by Pitts, more professionally drawn plans went on sale in 1962. While many home-built aircraft were built in the 1960s, earning the S1 a reputation as an excellent aerobatic aircraft, Pitts worked on the design of a two-seat aerobatic trainer version, the 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.[7][8]

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.[citation needed]

In 1972, the US National Aerobatic Team won the World Championships flying only Pitts biplanes.[2]

In 1977 Curtis Pitts sold his interests in the Pitts S1 & S2 to Doyle Child.[6] Child later sold the rights in 1981 to Frank Christenson, who continued production at the Afton plant under the guise of Christen Industries.[8] The rights for home-built versions of the Pitts were sold in 1994 to Steen Aero Lab,[9] with the Afton factory and production rights being transferred to Aviat.

Curtis Pitts died in 2005 at age 89. At the time of his death, he was working with Steen on the prototype of the new Pitts Model 14, a brand-new, two-seat biplane designed for unlimited aerobatics powered by the 400 horsepower Vedeneyev M14P radial engine. The rights to the Pitts name is currently owned by Aviat which also owns the similar model to the Pitts in the Christen Eagle.[10]

Current versions

Certified versions of the compact Pitts are now produced by Aviat in Afton, Wyoming. It is available as an S1 single-seater with up to 200 hp (150 kW) flat-4 Lycoming engine and a 17 ft 4 in (5.28 m) wingspan, or as an S2 two-seater variant featuring a 260 hp (194 kW) flat-6 Lycoming and a 20 ft (6.1 m) wingspan. Pitts Specials have been equipped with engines of up to 450 hp (338 kW).[1]

The Pitts held sway over the aerobatic world championships until the rise of the monoplane, though it remains very competitive in all levels of competition and remains a favorite of air show performers worldwide. The first monoplane to topple the Pitts from the top of unlimited aerobatic competition was the Russian- built and designed Yak-50.[citation needed]

Today, the single-seat Pitts S1-S plans are available from Aviat Aircraft. The S1-C and derivative S1-SS plans and kits are supplied by Steen Aero Lab in Palm Bay, Florida. The S1 continues to provide extremely high performance at a relatively low cost. Many hundreds of homebuilders have successfully completed and flown the Pitts since plans became available in 1960.[10]


Basic single-seat Pitts aerobatic biplane with a flat M6 aerofoil section and lower wing ailerons only, fitted with a variety of engines.[11] Two were built, the first named Special and the second Li'l Stinker.[12]
Amateur-built S-1 single-seat aircraft, flat bottom wing with ailerons on lower wing only, designed for 100–180 hp (75–134 kW) engines. First flown in 1960, the S-1 is currently available as a plans-built aircraft from Steen Aero Lab.[13][14]
Amateur-built S-1C with ailerons on all four wings, generally similar to S-1S.[11][15]
Amateur-built S-1C using factory-produced kits. Uses symmetrical airfoil.[11][15]
Outside derivative homebuilt, with the Falcon wing. Square tips, 25% more aileron span. In the UK, this model is fitted with a 200 hp (149 kW) Monty Barrett engine, and a lightweight Hoffmann VP propeller.[citation needed]
Aerotek-built certified S-1C for competition aerobatics, round aerofoil section, four ailerons and powered by a 180 hp (134 kW) Lycoming AEIO-360-B4A; 61 built.[11][15] This model is also available from Aviat Aircraft as a plans-built aircraft.[16]
Similar to the certified S1-S "Roundwing". 180–200+ hp (134–149 kW), 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.[17]
Aerotek-built S-1C with a 200 hp (149 kW) Lycoming AEIO-360-A1E and minor changes; 64 built.[11] 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 in 2008 from Aviat Aircraft as an "on-demand" manufacture product.[4][10]
Known as Model 11 "Super Stinker", 300+ hp (220 kW) 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 (15.3 m/s).[10][18]
Scaled up S-1 with tandem two-seat fuselage and powered by a 200 hp (149 kW) Lycoming AEIO-360-B4A piston engine.[11]
Aerotek-built S-2A with a 200 hp (149 kW) Lycoming AEIO-360-A1A or -A1E piston engine, constant speed propeller, later builds has a longer landing gear and a 2-inch-wider (51 mm) front cockpit; 259 built.[11][15]
Aerotek-built S-2A with a 260 hp (194 kW) Lycoming AEIO-540-D4A5 engine, and upper wing auxiliary fuel tank, the landing gear and upper wings were moved forward six inches; 196 built. The aircraft is out of production but is supported by Aviat Aircraft.[10][11]
Four aileron, two-seat, factory-built, symmetric airfoil, 260 hp (194 kW) Lycoming driving constant speed three-blade propeller, current production model. 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 in production in 2008 by Aviat Aircraft.[10]
Amateur-built S-2A from factory-produced kits.[11]
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 (194 kW) Lycoming AEIO-540-D4A5. The wingspan is 20 ft, 0 inches (6.10 m); 17 built. This model is currently out of production, but supported by Aviat Aircraft.[10][11][15]
Amateur-built S-2S from factory-produced kits.[11]


The "Big Pitts", it had a 450hp Pratt & Whitney R-985, originally designed for Jess Bristow and was used as an airshow airplane.[citation needed]

Military operators


Civil operators

Specifications (S-2B)

Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1988-89 [4]

General characteristics


See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era



  1. ^ a b Montgomery and Foster 1992, p. 92.
  2. ^ a b "Plane and Pilot" 1977, p. 84.
  3. ^ Taylor 1980, p. 899.
  4. ^ a b c Taylor 1988, p. 381.
  5. ^ The Pitts Model 12 Palmer Aeroworks Limited, 2 May 2008. Retrieved: 6 August 2008.
  6. ^ a b c Simpson 1991, p. 125.
  7. ^ Donald 1999, p. 683.
  8. ^ a b Donald 1999, p. 684.
  9. ^ Taylor 1999, p. 585.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Pitts Overview
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Simpson 1991, p. 126.
  12. ^ "American airplanes: Pa - Pi". Aerofiles.com. 2009-05-02. http://aerofiles.com/_pa.html. Retrieved 2011-03-16. 
  13. ^ Taylor 1976, p. 527.
  14. ^ "1999 Plans Aircraft Directory" 1999, p. 69.
  15. ^ a b c d e Taylor 1982, p. 187.
  16. ^ "1999 Plans Aircraft Directory" 1999, p. 53.
  17. ^ "The Pitts S1-C and S1-SS." Steen Aero Lab, 2008. Retrieved: 8 August 2008.
  18. ^ "Pitts S1 Historical Information." Steen Aero Lab, 2008. Retrieved: 8 August 2008.
  19. ^ Andrade 1982, page 138


  • Andrade, John Militair 1982. London:Aviation Press Limited, 1982. ISBN 0 907898 01 07.
  • Aviat Aircraft
  • Donald, David, ed. The Encyclopedia of Civil Aircraft. London: Aurum Press, 1999. ISBN 1-85410-642-2.
  • Montgomery, M.R. and Gerald Foster.A Field Guide to Airplanes, Second Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992. ISBN 0-395-62888-1.
  • "1999 Plans Aircraft Directory." Kitplanes Magazine Volume 16, Number 1, January 1999, Belvior Publications, Aviation Publishing Group LLC.
  • "Plane and Pilot." 1978 Aircraft Directory. Santa Monica CA: Werner & Werner Corp., 1977. ISBN 0-918312-00-0.
  • Simpson, R.W. Airlife's General Aviation. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1991, ISBN 1-85310-104-X.
  • Taylor, John W.R., ed. Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1976-77. London: Macdonald and Jane's, 1976. ISBN 0-354-00538-3.
  • Taylor, John W.R., ed. Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1988-89. Coulsden, Surrey, UK: Jane's Information Group, 1988. ISBN 0-7106-0867-5.
  • Taylor, John W.R., ed. Jane's Pocket Book of Light Aircraft - Second Edition. Coulsden, Surrey, UK: Jane's Publishing Company, 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0121-2.
  • Taylor, Michael J.H., ed. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1999/2000 Edition. London: Brassey's, 1999. ISBN 1-85753-245-7.
  • Taylor, Michael J.H., ed. Janes's Encyclopedia of Aviation, Vol. 5. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier Educational Corporation, 1980. ISBN 0-7106-0710-5.
  • "2008 Kit Aircraft Directory." Kitplanes Magazine Volume 24, Number 12, December 2007, Belvior Publications, Aviation Publishing Group LLC.

External links

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