STITS SA-2A SKY BABY – N5K
In 1952, Ray Stits built the Sky Baby in order to claim the title of the World’s Smallest Airplane. One of Ray’s previous designs, the Stits Junior, originally held the title, but was beginning to be doubted as the smallest.
The Sky Baby had a wing span of just over seven feet and a length of just less than ten feet. The tiny biplane stood barely five feet tall. The fuselage was made of chromoly tubing and the wings were made of spruce, and entirely covered with fabric. The Sky Baby was powered by an 85 hp Continental engine. With water injection the engine could develop 112 hp at 3,800 rpm, giving the Sky Baby a power loading comparable to World War II fighters.
In an airplane designed to be small, center of gravity was a tough problem. At full rudder, the pilot’s foot was pressed against the cowl, within three or four inches of the propeller. The engine was located above the pilot’s legs with the oil tank and carburetor between his knees.
The Sky Baby made its first flight on May 26, 1952 at Palm Springs by the exceptionally experienced pilot, Bob Starr. Starr had to use every ounce of flight training he had acquired in his long career to fly the tiny aircraft. The airplane was extremely sensitive on the controls, especially the ailerons, and anything other than smooth air flight was uncomfortable. From a dead stop, the Sky Baby could take off and climb to 1,000 feet in 35 seconds. During demonstration flights, Bob flew the Sky Baby at speeds in excess of 200 mph
A lot of interest was generated when Ray introduced his experimental airplane. The Sky Baby was featured in the “Smiling Jack” comics of 1953 and achieved the distinction of being listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Many people asked for the plans to build their own Sky Baby, but due to the complexity of the airplane and the experienced pilot needed to fly it, the tiny plane was clearly not suitable for the amateur builder or pilot. With over 500 hours under his belt, Ray didn’t even trust his experience enough to fly his own creation.
After just a few flights, Ray donated his record holding biplane to the National Air and Space Museum. In 1963, the Sky Baby was placed on long-term loan to the EAA AirVenture Museum.
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