Although today the latest versions are still very competitive at lower levels, the Pitts' Golden Age was between 1960 and 1975. It represented the benchmark of the times and ruled the skies in almost every international competition.
Curtis Pitts, a self-taught engineer with vast military aviation experience from World War II, came together with Phil Quigley - a friend who shared his passion for flight and aerobatics - to design a light, low-cost aerobatic single-seater at the naval station in Jacksonville, FL.
|Curtis Pitts after his first flight|
It took less than a year to build that prototype, and after being rejected by the CAA (the old FAA) three times for the Certificate of Airworthiness, Curtis became fed up with the bureaucracy. One day, after the inspectors left, he picked up the flying device with its 55 cv Lycoming, weighing less than 500 lbs., and took flight for the first time in September 1945. He baptized that flying device as the "Special," the Pitts Special S1.
|Curtis Pitts and Phil Quigley|
Phil Quigley told Curtis that the CAA inspectors must have hid and watched the Pitts fly from behind some trees, since they came a week later with the approved Certificate of Airworthiness.
That initial design improved with subsequent flights, and as a result, the engine was switched for a more powerful 90 cv Franklin with a "homemade" power supply for upside-down flight, allowing for high quality performance, rigidity, and the exploration of new figures and aerobatic maneuvers.
This plane was subsequently sold to an agricultural pilot who, according to Curtis, was so deaf he couldn't hear the motor of a car running right next to him. His hearing problem, in combination with the unpredictable fuel system for upside-down flight, led to the disappearance of that original Pitts in the skies.
|Pitts Special S1|
One day, 2 weeks after buying the plane, making a low pass down the track, he made a 45 degree line and then pulled the stick to do a loop. Suddenly, the engine stopped without him realizing it, and when he completed the loop, he hit the ground with the plane's nose elevated, shattering the plane. Fortunately, he walked away unharmed from this serious accident."
These were the beginnings of one of the most famous planes in the history of aviation, and served as the foundation for the rest of the Pitts Special models. There have been many modifications and subsequent models to that initial prototype, but you can still see the concept, design, and spirit of that original model in the more modern and powerful Pitts S2.