Today we are going to discover the story of an aircraft that has performed at more airshows and won more aerobatic contests than any other aircraft in US history and has been used by incredible pilots to break numerous world records. That plane is, the Pitts Special.
Pitts Special biplanes dominated world aerobatic competition in the 1960s and 1970s. It became the standard by which all other aerobatic aircraft were judged. In 1972, the US Aerobatic Team won the World Championships flying only Pitts biplanes.
Curtis Pitts began the design of a single-seat aerobatic biplane in 1943–1944. The first plane Pitts built had a home built inverted fuel system. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a crash, but he built another. He designed and built the S-1, specifically for aerobatics, in 1945. He built it for himself but it was so good word spread.
He got an initial order for 10 but with a stroke of bad luck the buyer filed for bankruptcy. Only one was sold, but that was enough to get worldwide attention, especially when flown by famous pilots such as the legendary Betty Skelton known as “the fastest woman on earth” and also known as the “First lady of first” due to achieving many records including a land speed record, and an unofficial women’s air speed record of 421 mph in a P-51 Mustang, prior to exploding the engine. She affectionately named her Pitts Special “little Stinker” due to the Skunk aircraft art on the fuselage.
Accomplishments in a Pitts
Betty won the National Aerobatics Championship three times. She was the first woman to attempt the “inverted ribbon cut,” in which she would fly upside down only ten feet off the ground, slicing a ribbon with her propeller of her Pitts Special.
Another incredible achievement with a Pitts Sepcial is from air show performer Spencer Suderman. He holds the current inverted flat spin world record at a crazy 98 inverted flat spins set in 2016 with his Sunbird experimental variant of the Pitts S1.
The manoeuvre began from 24,500 feet over the Yuma Proving Grounds and after 98 inverted flat spins, he recovered at just 2,000′ AGL. The previous world record was 81 set in 2014 also by Spencer in a Pitts S2-B
There are 2 variants of the Pitts Special
The S1 single-seater with an up to 200hp
And the S2 two-seater variant featuring a 260 hp
But there are plenty of experimental Pitts Specials, some have been equipped with engines of 450hp and more
Curtis Pitts died in 2005 at good old age 89. Even at 89 he was still working on the prototype Pitts Model 14, a brand new, two-seat biplane designed for unlimited aerobatics, powered by a 400hp radial engine.
His creation was simply amazing and what a legacy that he has left. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum called the original Pitts’ 1943 design “revolutionary because of its small size, lightweight, short wingspan and extreme agility”. Little Stinker hangs from the roof of the Washington DC museum.
Curtis Pitts himself was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 1991, and the Air Show Hall of Fame in 2002.
The Pitts has such a place in the hearts of aviators, that it has been one of the first aircraft to be included in MS Flight Simulator 2020. If flight simming is your thing feel free to follow my Instagram account where show amazing scenery and places from the sim. Link to my Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/msfsunofficial/
If you want to see more about the Pitts Special I’ve added some links to great YouTube videos in the video description on YouTube The Pitts Special Story
Thanks for watching, I’m Pilot Mike and safe flying.