Pitts S-2 Special
Two-seat home-built biplane

Archive Photos 1

Pitts S-2 Special-Big Stinker (N22Q,s/n 1001, 1966) c.2003 on display at the EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin (Photos by John Shupek)

Overview 3

First flown in 1967, the Pitts S-2 Special is a two-seat version of the Pitts S-1 Special. It is similar to the single-seat S-1 in basic configuration and construction, but is slightly larger in overall dimensions, with no attempt at commonality of components. The increased size and power, coupled with aerodynamic changes, give the two-seater improved aerobatic and landing characteristics, and make it extremely stable in rough air conditions. Control responses are better than on the S-1. The ailerons are aerodynamically balanced for higher rate of rolls at low speeds, and full vertical rolls can be made with ease. The different wing sections used on the S-2 provide inverted performance equal to conventual flight and facilitate outside loops.

Design and Development 2

Curtis Pitts began the design of a single-seat aerobatic biplane in 1943-1944. The design has been refined continuously since the prototype’s first flight in September 1944, however, the current Pitts S2 still remains quite close to the original in concept and in design.

Several of the aircraft that Curtis Pitts built had a picture of a skunk on them and were called Stinkers. After she bought it, aerobatic performer Betty Skelton called the second aircraft that Curtis built, Lil’ Stinker. The prototype S-2, which was the first two-seat Pitts, was Big Stinker, the prototype Model 11 (later called S1-11B) was Super Stinker, and the prototype Model 12 was the Macho Stinker.

In 1962 Curtis Pitts set up Pitts Enterprises to sell plans of the Pitts S-1C to home builders.

Operational History 2

All single-seat (S-1) and two-seat (S-2) Pitts Specials are variations on the basic design from 1944.

The aircraft was popularized by Betty Skelton, Caro Bayley and other air show performers, which led to the offering of plans in 1962.

Pitts produced limited numbers of aircraft during the 1940s and 1950s. It is widely accepted that the Pitts Special is the standard by which all other aerobatic aircraft are judged. After a number of home-built aircraft were produced from rough hand-drawn plans produced by Pitts, more professionally drawn plans went on sale in 1962. While many home-built aircraft were built in the 1960s, earning the Pitts S-1 a reputation as an excellent aerobatic aircraft, Pitts worked on the design of a two-seat aerobatic trainer version, the Pitts S-2, which first flew in 1967 and gained its type certificate in 1971. Factory-built aircraft produced by the Aerotek company at Afton, Wyoming were joined in production by the single-seat S-1S in 1973.

The design’s popularity grew significantly following Bob Herendeen’s participation on the USA Aerobatic Team in a Pitts Special in the World Aerobatic Competition in Moscow, Russia in 1966. In 1972, the US National Aerobatic Team won the World Championships flying only Pitts biplanes.

In 1977 Curtis Pitts sold his interests in the Pitts S-1 and S-2 to Doyle Child. Child later sold the rights in 1981 to Frank Christenson, who continued production at the Afton plant under the guise of Christen Industries. The rights for home-built versions of the Pitts were sold in 1994 to Steen Aero Lab, with the Afton factory and production rights being transferred to Aviat.

Curtis Pitts died in 2005 at age 89. At the time of his death, he was working with Steen on the prototype of the new Pitts Model 14, a brand-new, two-seat biplane designed for unlimited aerobatics powered by the 400 horsepower Vedeneyev M14P radial engine. The rights to the Pitts name is currently owned by Aviat which also owns the similar model to the Pitts in the Christen Eagle.

Current Versions 2

Certified versions of the compact Pitts are now produced by Aviat in Afton, Wyoming. It is available as an S-1 single-seater with up to 200 hp (150 kW) flat-4 Lycoming engine and a 17 ft 4 in (5.28 m) wingspan, or as an S-2 two-seater variant featuring a 260 hp (194 kW) flat-6 Lycoming and a 20 ft (6.1 m) wingspan. Pitts Specials have been equipped with engines of up to 450 hp (338 kW).

The Pitts held sway over the aerobatic world championships until the rise of the monoplane, though it remains very competitive in all levels of competition and remains a favorite of air show performers worldwide. The first monoplane to topple the Pitts from the top of unlimited aerobatic competition was the Russian-built and designed Yak-50.

Today, the single-seat Pitts S-1S plans are available from Aviat Aircraft. The S-1C and derivative S-1SS plans and kits are supplied by Steen Aero Lab in Palm Bay, Florida. The S-1 continues to provide extremely high performance at a relatively low cost. Many hundreds of home-builders have successfully completed and flown the Pitts since plans became available in 1960.

Variants 2

Specifications (S-2) 3




Tail Unit

Landing Gear

Power Plant


Dimensions, External


Performance at Maximum Takeoff Weight


  1. Photos: John Shupek
  2. Wikipedia, Pitts Special
  3. Taylor, John W. R. (editor). Pitts S-2 Special, Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft 1968-69, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1968, pages 365-366

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