Pitts Special S-1E

The Pitts Special is without a doubt the best plane I've had the privilege to fly so far. I've had a lot of fun in many different types, but the Pitts is in a class all its own. It reacts to every input like it's an extension of your mind. Right now. Immediately. Not in a little while or when it gets around to it like many other planes. It doesn't do anything you don't ask of it. It's not like balancing on the head of a pin either. It never feels touchy or jumpy, just solid and ready to move when you ask. With two wings and an open cockpit, it has some of the mystique of the classic ships of the Golden Age. Make no mistake, when asked, it definitely has modern capabilities on tap. For me it is a great mix of two distinct eras in aviation and is a joy to fly. I agree with Budd Davisson, "There are Pitts Specials and there are other airplanes and the two shouldn't be confused."

The specs as built -

  • 180hp Lycoming IO360-B4A
  • Sensenich 76-56 metal prop (later re-pitched to 76-60)
  • Stock bungee gear
  • Stock rudder and elevators
  • Open cockpit
  • Inverted fuel tank with Bendix fuel injection
  • Inverted oil system (Christen style)
  • Sparcraft wings. Symetrical airfoils with four Frise ailerons. Round tips
  • Four gallon wing tank. Later used as smoke tank
  • Aviation Products 6" Homebuilders tailwheel
  • Stock alternator and starter
  • Stock Lycoming 4-into-2 non-crossover exhaust
  • Cruise at around 135-140 mph
  • Stall in the low 60's mph
  • Approach 80-90 mph depending on conditions
  • Empty weight 849 lbs
  • Gross weight 1150 lbs
  • Rated for +6 and -3 g's
  • Measured roll rate ~150 degrees per second. Later ~180 degrees per second with sealed ailerons. Measured at 140 mph using video.

The plane was very competitive in Intermediate and could get by in Advanced, but not with a lot of breathing room. It did much better with Advanced sequences once I got the roll rate up a bit. I added a Sky Dynamics cross-over exhaust system that also helped with the tougher figures.

The Pitts is my main project right now with a complete rework that is including many updates. I can't wait to get it back in the air to see how the new stuff changes the performance. It should fly like a new plane and it will take some practice to adjust to the new capabilities. Should be a blast!

Planned Updates

  • Wolf Pitts tapered rod landing gear
  • Plywood leading edges.
  • Larger rudder, with updated elevator and rudder shapes.
  • Catto wood core composite prop with new 14" spinner.
  • Raven SS style 3-hinge Aileron kit.
  • Change to square wingtips.
  • Aluminum aileron coves.
  • Smaller battery.
  • Remove plywood floorboards and radio stack.
  • Add aluminum trays for rudder pedals.
  • Update panel and move electrical switches and breakers to panel.
  • Replace flat tailwheel springs with round tapered spring.
  • Remove bolt-in cabane stiffener and replace with welded cabane stiffener.
  • Updated belly sheetmetal for new gear and exhaust tunnel.
  • New fabric and paint
  • Lightweight starter (SkyTec cantilevered inline)
  • Remove center cutout in top wing (straighten trailing edge).
  • Replace all control system bearings.
  • Add cabane fairing
  • Slave struts moved behind I struts.
  • Add vacuum pad oil pickup for Christen system.
  • Remove wing tank
  • Add smoke tank under fuel tank.

There are many smaller changes and fixes that will be made along the way, but I think the items in the list are the most significant. Here are a few pictures of the plane in the unadulterated stock configuration that served so well for the last 33 years.