The Pitts Special refers to different models of an aerobatic biplane first developed in the 1940s. The aircrafts popularity stems from its heavy use in aerobatic competitions, especially in the 1960s.
The name is often appended with S1 or S2 to designate it as a one-seater or two-seater, respectively. The aircraft was conceived and refined by designer Curtis Pitts. The Pitts prototype first flew in 1944, with succeeding test flights seeing several revisions, although the present aircraft still closely resembles the first model.
Pitts slowly introduced his model in different air shows in the 1950s. The S2 was later developed after the S1 received favorable reviews from test pilots. The two-seater was meant to be a training aircraft for those looking to step up to the S1, but many pilots and enthusiasts also use the S2 as a hobby plane.
It wasn't until 1962 that the first commercial Pitts Special was introduced in the market. This was when Pitts founded Pitts Enterprises specifically to market the plans for his design. Since 1962, the Pitts Special has seen its ownership change hands several times. Current rights to the design plans are with Steen Aero Lab, with the name belonging to Aviat. Current certified S1 and S2 aircrafts are still being produced by Aviat.
There are several variants of this aircraft, with the S-1 being the most basic model. The S-1C to S-1F are amateur or homebuilt variants that differ in terms of their ailerons and the source of their factory parts. The S-1S to S-1T are built by Aero-tek and are certified for aerobatic competition.
For two-seater variants, the S-2 is a slightly larger model based on the S-1. The S-2A to S-2C are factory-built models which differ in their propellers, engines, fuel tanks and landing gears. The S-2E and S-2SE are home-built models made from prefabricated kits.
Today the Pitts Special is still a popular choice for air competitions. While its fame has somewhat declined since the introduction of monoplanes, many instructors still use the S2 for its handling and efficiency.