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The ultimate feeling is when you no longer feel that you are riding in an airplane. You feel like you, yourself, are flying... "I pull back on the stick, I push the power"... becomes, "I'm going that way," and you just, you do whatever it takes to go that way. The airplane literally becomes an extension of your body.
(Lt. Gen. Earl Brown, USAF [Ret.])
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Pitts S1
First Flight Video

The original Pitts Special is started up for the first test flight (1945)

In 1945, Curtis was working for famed Florida aviator Laurie Yonge in Jacksonville, and built an aerobatic biplane of his own design on the side. Curtis was a man of action, so after the CAA inspectors left for the third time in a row without giving him either an airworthiness certificate or an explanation, he got tired of waiting for the bureaucrats and decided to fly it anyway. Willie Weeks hand-propped the 65-horsepower engine, and Curtis simply taxied out and flew it. He found no problems on the first flight, and the tiny biplane (registered N52650) proved to be very nimble and a ton of fun to fly! While that first test flight may have been unauthorized, it marked the dawn of a new era in aerobatics and airshow history, as variants of the Pitts Special have dominated aerobatic competitions and airshow performances ever since. (Curtis' good friend Phil Quigley later told him that the CAA inspectors did in fact watch the flight from behind some trees... and a week later the inspector gave Curtis the airworthiness certificate, already written out.)

Special Feature: Here is an image of Curtis' logbook entry recording that first flight! (Click photo for full-size image)

Fortunately, Laurie Yonge was there that day with a movie camera and captured the historic moment on film. One has to wonder whether Curtis or the small crowd that gathered to watch had any inkling at the time that the little plane would become a truly legendary icon of aviation.

Video Format Dial-Up
(Phone line, 28.8K/56K modem)
(Cable modem, DSL, ISDN, T-1)
Windows Media .WMV File Watch Video 1.80 MB, 320x240, 30fps Watch Video 3.59 MB, 320x240, 30fps
AVI Video .AVI File Watch Video 1.66 MB, 160x120, 15fps Watch Video 3.30 MB, 320x240, 24fps
Real Video .RM File Watch Video 0.65 MB, 160x120, 15fps Watch Video 4.78 MB, 320x240, 30fps
MPEG-1 .MPG File
Watch Video 9.48 MB, 320x240, 30fps
NOTES: All files show the same video. Total Running Time is 1:02. No audio.

Files not playing smoothly? If the file isn't playing smoothly when you click on the links above (this is usually due to your connection speed) then you should download the entire video to your computer's hard drive before playing it. Right-click on one of the links above, then select "Save Target As..." and select a folder to save it to. After the file finishes downloading, open that folder and double-click on the file to play it.

We would like to thank Dennis McGuire of Hilliard, FL for making this footage available!

Bonus Round: Here's an earlier logbook entry from Curtis, he was giving someone an airplane ride and had his hands full as the fabric ripped off the wing. Apparently, his passenger got things a little backwards and thought the wild gyrations were causing the problem, not the result! (Click on the photo to see the full-size image)


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  •  First Flight Video
    Memorial to Curtis Pitts (1915-2005)

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