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PITTS S-2 SPECIAL – N22Q

As Curtis Pitts was designing his round wing single-place airplane, the S-1 Special, he already had a two-place version in mind. Curtis started designing the S-2 in 1965 with high ambitions.

The most ambitious part of the new Special was that the airplane would carry FAA pedigree papers declaring it Type Certified, in addition to its ability to perform all the unlimited category aerobatic maneuvers. Having the S-2 Type Certified would allow the airplane to be used as a commercial aircraft for instruction, allowing flight schools to use the S-2 to open advanced aerobatics to a much wider audience. The drawback to creating a Type Certified airplane was that Curtis had to jump though all the FAA regulatory hoops that apply to any factory produced plane instead of remaining in the realm of experimental aircraft. Curtis was the first person in nearly 35 years to design and certify an aerobatic biplane.

The S-2 was powered by an O-360 180 hp Lycoming engine, modified for inverted flight with the addition of inverted fuel and oil systems. Unlimited aerobatics automatically demand a symmetrical airfoil, so Curtis developed his revolutionary airfoils on the top and bottom in order to control the stall and avoid compromising the airplane’s aerobatic capabilities.

The S-2 was first test flown in mid-1966, just in time to make the EAA Convention at Rockford, Illinois. It couldn’t roll or climb with the S-1 because of the extra weight, but the S-2 could still perform all the maneuvers with ease.

Getting the S-2 Type Certified was an entirely different problem. In 1967, the FAA was used to doing engineering certifications on the new series of jet airliners, where performance was measured in Mach and distances in continents. In the same stack was Curtis’ application for his rag-and-tube biplane that carried 22 gallons of fuel and was designed specifically to fly upside down. After many frustrating paperwork delays, the FAA assigned Joe Thompson as the official evaluation test pilot. With the help of Joe and FAA Engineering and Manufacturing District Office Chief John Vogel, the S-2 was finally certified.

Curtis joined forces with Herb Anderson, who was running the plant producing the Callair series of agricultural aircraft. Herb helped Curtis develop a factory to manufacture the S-2. Together, Herb and Curtis accomplished a minor miracle: they certified a fully aerobatic airplane and put it into production.

The S-2 became the standard for advanced aerobatic training and set the stage for the factory to establish a long line of aerobatic airplanes unmatched by any other. Curtis donated the revolutionary prototype S-2 to EAA in 1977.

Pitts S-2 Special Pitts S-2 Special

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