Pitts Special S1

Crew Chief: Guy Smith

Pitts Special S1
The Pitts Special S1 on the field at the Pacific Coast Air Museum.

Pitts Special S1 Specifications

Country of Origin: USA
N Number: N17J 
Manufacturer: Curtis Pitts Design Home Built
Built by John Manke 1969 
Type: Pitts Special S1 
Accommodation: Pilot 
Powerplant: IO-360 Lycoming, 200 HP
Performance: Cruise speed 154 mph
Max speed 185 mph
Range 309 miles
Rate of Climb 2650 ft/min
Weights: Empty weight 720 pounds
Gross Weight 1150 pounds
Dimensions: Wingspan 17’ 4”
Length 15’ 6”
Height 6’ 6”

Pitts Special S1 History

The Pitts Special S1 is certainly one of the most famous airplanes in civilian aircraft history. It has performed at more air shows than any other type of aerobatic aircraft. Designed by Curtis Pitts in 1945, it fast became a favorite for aerobatics and has been the aircraft of choice for numerous national and international top ranked aerobatic pilots. With a fantastic power to weight ratio, the Pitts was able to perform practically any acrobatic maneuver.

This Pitts Special was hand build by the donor, John Manke, who was a former Director of Flight Operations for the NASA Ames Research Center. John began building this in 1969 aircraft after receiving the plans. After three years of work, N17J was completed. On September 15, 1972, the FAA gave a certificate of airworthiness.

Our Pitts was last flown in 1984 over the desert of Southern California. It was graciously donated to our museum in the summer of 2006. A Pacific Coast Air Museum member, Guy Smith, and his grandson, went to Southern California, brought it to Santa Rosa and reassembled the aircraft for static display.

The original Pitts design was created by Curtis Pitts in the mid 40s.  The first version, a Pitts 190 Special, was built in 1947 for pilot Betty Skelton.  After building a relatively small number of production aircraft, Curtis Pitts made plans available to amateurs so they could build their own. 

In 1977, Pitts sold the all sales and production rights to a new company, Pitts Aerobatics, in Afton Wyoming.  In addition to plans and kits, production aircraft are still being made for those who desired a factory built aircraft.  The company is now known as Aviat Aircraft and is currently producing the S2-C two-place model of the Pitts.

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