If it ain’t a Pitts, it ain’t an airplane! ~Budd Davisson
This sweet and lively biplane is a legend in aviation, having won countless local and national competitions and world aerobatic titles. In 1945, Curtis Pitts was looking for a fun sport plane, but with nothing much available he was left with only one choice: to design and build his own.
Looking to depart from larger pre-war biplanes, Pitts wanted something smaller that would climb, roll, and change altitude more quickly. Instead of a large radial engine, he opted for a smaller and lighter horizontally-opposed engine. The swept wing feature made snap rolls snap more sharply. With its small size, light weight, short wingspan and extreme agility, the Pitts Special became the revolutionary result of his quest.
The prototype S-1 was outfitted with a 55 hp Lycoming engine, and was a spirited performer. The second plane constructed was purchased in 1948 by aerobatic pilot Betty Skelton. It was renamed Little Stinker, and with Betty as pilot, went on to win the 1949 and 1950 International Feminine Aerobatic Championships.
In the early 1960s, Pitts produced the construction drawings of his S-1C “flat wing” design for a home-built version, and hundreds were subsequently fabricated by amateur builders. These home-built planes accommodated any engine from 85 hp to 180 hp—the most popular being the 125-150 hp Lycomings. Pitts later developed his famous S-1S round wing design. Its symmetrical wings are parallel and they use different airfoil sections top and bottom to make the top wing stall first whether inverted or right side up. In 1972, Curtis received U.S. Patent No. 3,695,557 for this airfoil design, offering the ultimate in aerobatic performance.
Curtis Pitts was inducted into the Aerobatics Hall of Fame in 1987 at the EAA Aviation Center. His name will forever live on as the creative genius behind the design and development of the most popular, successful, and enduring biplanes to ever grace the sport.