Used Aircraft Guide

September 2008 Issue

Used Aircraft Guide: Pitts Special

After 60-plus years and a wide variety of versions, it’s still the sport airplane to beat.

In many ways, the Pitts Special is responsible for the current state of amateur and professional aerobatics. First flown in 1944 (or 1945—sources vary) as a single-seat homebuilt with only a 55-HP engine, the type has developed into today’s highly refined and FAA-certified, two-seat, 300-HP aerial hot rod used for advanced training and—at least in lower categories—competitive aerobatics. Many different variants have evolved over the years, including factory-built and experimental versions, but there remain two main types: a single-seater and a two-holer. Today, you can buy a new, factory-built machine from certificate holder Aviat Aircraft, or get the plans and components for a single-seat version from Steen Aero Lab. Dominant in aerobatic competition during the 1960s and 1970s, the Pitts Special long ago ceded that position to more-modern monoplane designs from Extra and Sukhoi. Even Pitts himself saw the monoplane light: Before his death in 2005 at age 89, he designed but never built the Model 13, an enclosed "coupe." But the basic biplane design of the Special remains popular as a recreational and training aircraft, and still can be seen strutting its stuff at airshows, fly-ins, pancake breakfasts and private hangars throughout the world.

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