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Thursday, 02 January 2014 13:35

The Pitts, Part II Featured

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Samson
Samson

At the end of 1945, they wanted to build ten S1s for Car Stengel off the design of the original Pitts as part of an amateur construction kit, but only one was built due to Carl's company's financial problems. Phil Quigley flew this model in airshows - with its longer and more resistant fuselage, 85 hp Continental engine, and an improved upside-down fuel system - until aerobatics pilot Betty Skelton bought it in 1947.  With the nickname "Little Stinker," it allowed her to dominate all the female national aerobatics competitions from 1947 to 1951.

 

Betty Skelton and her Little Stinker
Betty Skelton and her Little Stinker

Betty sold Little Stinker to Bob Davis, who flew it for several years. George Young bought it later and replaced the 85 hp Continental engine with a 125 hp Lycoming. Later, this was replaced by a 175 hp engine. Finally, the plane was sold to Drexell Scott, who completely rebuilt it like new.

Almost 20 years later, Little Stinker returned to its original home when Betty Skelton bought it again.  Little Stinker, now called "Winter Heaven," is based in Florida and continues to fly actively.

Caro Bayley
Caro Bayley

Little Stinker made its name in the aerobatics world, Curtis worked for a while as a mechanic performing maintenance on planes at Jim Holland's aerial works company, including the complete conversion of 220 Stearmans suitable for fumigation. After 3 months, Jim moved to England, and Curtis bought the company. This was the beginning of a successful career lasting almost 20 years.

Although the aerial work was time-consuming, Curtis always found time to build Pitts planes upon request. Meanwhile, Little Stinker made mischief at airshows, impressing everyone.  At one airshow, a woman named Caro Bayley made contact with Curtis and asked him to construct a plane for her just like Little Stinker. This was the third model Pitts created by Curtis, but this time using a stronger 125 hp engine. Due to requests for stronger and stronger engines, Curtis had to work diligently on the redesign of the front of the fuselage and install a few new wings to offset the increased power and weight of the new engines each time they were manufactured. After Caro flew her Pitts in several competitions and airshows, she sold it to Frank Gibson. Frank lost the plane when a part of the injection system broke, causing a fire in the engine. He landed safely, unscathed, however his plane was reduced to ashes. 

Bill Bernnand, Betty Skelton, Phil Quigley, Caro Bayley and Steve Wittman
Bill Bernnand, Betty Skelton, Phil Quigley, Caro Bayley and Steve Wittman

One day, Jess Bristow proposed that Curtis design a biplane capable of carrying an increased capacity motor, along with:

1.  50 gallons of smoke oil 

2.  12 gallons of fuel in the auxiliary tank for aerobatic flight

3.  120 gallons of fuel in the main tank of the fuselage

4.  12 gallons of motor oil

Curtis, being a self-taught engineer, took the Pitts blueprints, made some modifications, and drew up initial plans of what would months later become "The Big Pitts," or "Samson." It was the 4th aerobatic plane that Curtis constructed, this time with a maximum takeoff weight of 2200 lbs, and an empty weight of 1595 lbs.

Jess sold Samson to exhibition pilot Ben Charlotte, who made a tour of exhibitions throughout the United States. Many years later, the plane passed through several hands until it was finally destroyed at an exhibition in Fayetteville, North Carolina when it collided with another plane in flight during its final approach.  The Big Pitts pilot survived, but the plane was completely destroyed in the fire caused by the crash.

One day, Jimmy DeSanto wanted Curtis to modify an unlimited plane for air racing. Initially, Curtis wanted to stay on the margins of the project, but with encouragement from Jimmy, Curtis eventually became interested in racing and built the first N.21 plane in 1947. As expected, his friend and colleague Phil Quigley, along with Bud Heisel, were charged with flying the plane throughout the country.

Curtis Pitts and Bill Brenand with the racing plane N.21
Curtis Pitts and Bill Brenand with the racing plane N.21

Curtis began a second racing plane, model N.8, but Bud's death in the N.21 plane caused the project to stop for almost a year. Finally, Curtis finished the plane and had Phil fly it in a few races. Months later, Phil withdrew and was replaced by the well-known racing pilot Bill Brennand of Oshkosh, but Bill's career would not be a success, since the plane had constant engine problems.

Later, Curtis lost interest in racing, sold the N.8, and concentrated all his efforts on his aerial works business and aerobatics.

At this time, Curtis has built 6 planes in total. He created the first model Pitts in Jacksonville, Little Stinker, Caro Bayley's plane in Gainesville, Samson, and the N.21 and N.8 racing planes. Undoubtedly, a huge success for that era.

Read 6891 times Last modified on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 19:54
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