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Pitts S2A

Have been getting some time in a S2A but still in the foothills of learning to fly it with some modicum of finesse.

The S2A has a 200HP Lycoming, constant speed propeller, and inverted fuel/oil system.

Undercarriage is conventional (ie tailwheel). The main wheels have what appears to be an internal bungee suspension system very similar to the Piper Pacer/Clipper. This design is quite bouncy. Tailwheel is a Maule design.

It is quite short coupled and has strong rudder and pitch control. Roll rate is a modest, by aerobatic standards, 250 degrees per second or so.

The strong control in pitch means you fly it on in a three point attitude, preferably from an approach in a side slip to actually see the runway – conventional tailwheel technique of full back stick for a three point touchdown will set the Pitts up for some interesting pilot induced oscillation as it skips back and forth from tailwheel to bouncy mainwheel – so having tailwheel experience has some negative conditioning which has to be overcome.

With a relatively good power to weight compared to a typical trainer – and with short wings, it exhibits all the forces in flight: slipstream, torque, gyroscopic, p-force – actually flying in balance unconsciously takes some practice. Using the rudder correctly during aerobatics requires some subtlety as it will go off heading quite easily as speeds change, for example in a loop.

It has good fuselage lift so can fly in knife edge better than the 200HP engine would normally accomplish.

The wing profile is symmetrical without washout or dihedral – and in the thread on different types I wonder how valuable the experience of different types is, if they all tend to have spin resistant washout/dihedral and friese type aileron design. i.e. modern travelling GA types tend to have quite similar wing designs. Flying a type which is designed to achieve precision spins (upright, inverted, flat) without the spin resistant elements certainly provides an education in spins.

Am not sure how many hours it will take to be proficient in type, but more than the usual five or six hour thorough checkout budget – over fifty might bring me to an intermediate level.

It’s a pity monoplanes dominate competitions and to achieve a decent standing working a Pitts may require some extra skill to compete (see what I just did :)

As I learn more will try and share, but it would be great if there are other forum members who have experience on type to add comments.

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

The Pitts is like the ultimate aircraft type to master.

I have never saw one in real life, except in Oshkosh I guess.
You might get some tips from this video :

Keep us posted on your progress !


I had just one dual flight in an S2-C but it was the most exciting (if impractical) plane I’ve flown yet. From downwind abeam the numbers to taxiing off the runway seemed to take about 5 seconds when flown by the other pilot I loved it, rolls were so fun with the world framed by the wings and it was fast too.

A good friend has an S1-S that he doesn’t fly much because (according to him) it’s a lot of effort with parachutes, climbing in and so on, when compared with his Citabria. I wish it was an S2-A so we could do some dual, the same guy taught me to fly years ago. Then maybe I’d be tempted by an inexpensive S1-C.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 27 Aug 14:39

Silvaire I do hope you get some time in the Pitts again. Definitely around fifty hours in my view before feeling that handling is showing some finesse. A couple of youtube links featuring the Pitts – the first is on the 1980’s Marlboro team, and the fifty hour benchmark is mentioned.

the second link is the David Carradine movie that features Curtiss Pitts himself – plotline is somewhat dated but the Pitts and an Arrow III star

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

Another youtube on a Pitts

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

I have about 150 hrs in an S2C, done 10-15 years ago. It is a truly delightful plane to fly. You just think about what you want to happen and it does it. I’ve literally done everything in the book in it – tumbles of all kinds, knife-edge spins a couple of times (by accident – there doesn’t seem to be a well-defined way to enter them), you name it. It helped that my instructor was (still is) a truly brilliant pilot. When I asked him whether a rolling loop was possible, he promptly invented it. (He also flew U2s for a living at one time).

Only problem is – at the end of every flight you have to land it. And it is a beast to land. My technique was always to land power off, (a) because one day you might need to, so you’d better know how and (b) because that way you can see the runway as you plummet down short final. And final is always short and plummeting.

Pulling the power back abeam the numbers you could JUST make it, still turning as you begin the flare.

I knew a guy who owned one and did serious competition flying. His comment was “it took me over 200 hours before every time I took off, I thought, sh*t, now I have to land it”.

It does actually have a small amount of positive roll stability, thanks to the slightly tapered upper wing and just the tiniest amount of dihedral on the lower wing. There’s an easy way to prove it. Push in a fair bit of right rudder, with no aileron. It will yaw, bank, and turn – just like a 172. A plane with NO roll stability – like the Yak 54 – will start to yaw then promptly flip over onto its back, due to the unopposed rolling couple frm the rudder/vertical stab. Fun the first time you try it.

I also have a little time in an Extra 300. It is more capable than the Pitts, and a pussy cat to land – if you can land a Citabria, you can land an Extra. But it is way less fun.

Last Edited by johnh at 08 Mar 19:47
LFMD, France

Robert, are you still flying the Pitts? I also fly the S2A now and then, I don’t have a lot of hours on it yet, but it’s a really fun plane to fly.


had a go at a S2B a few years ago (good example of a happy euphemism)… and as hinted by @johnh, it was super easy to manoeuvre. The more so since I came from the Cap-10B with its fixed pitch prop, 180hp, and asymmetric airfoil.
Out of a 500m grass strip, the take-off was not a problem, the 260hp (IIRC) pulling two up with ease. As for the landing… well, a curved approach all the way solved it, and the grass helped. A lot.

ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

@jvdo last flew one last year. I try and get a couple of dual flights a year and run the known Sports sequence.

One day would like to build up competence and currency to do a Sports competition, but this requires a fair amount of prep.

Thank you for posting the videos.

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

@jvdo that was very nice and tidy aerobatics in your video :) chapeau

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom
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