Pitts S-2B Flight


On September 11 2006 I was very fortunate to be offered a flight in a Pitts S-2B. I grew up watching the Rothmans Pitts Specials aerobatics team and never dreamt that I would actually, one day, experience the thrills.

We took off from Biggin Hill just before dusk and taxiing into postion was strange enough as the pilot Justyn Gorman has to 'tack' as there is no forward vision due to the angle that the planes sits on the runway. Once we were airborne I was introduced to the 'flick roll' and pretty much straight away went into a 'vertical roll' followed by a 'stall turn/hammerhead'. Next came the 'avalanche' (which is a loop with a flick roll at the top). We also managed a few horizontal and vertical point rolls (similar to flick rolls but the planes is held momentarily at each point i.e. 90, 180, 270 and finally 360 degrees.

The best was saved until last. Firstly we flew into a 'vertical torque roll' (where the plane is briefly at 0g in the vertical) and then a 'tailslide' (first time I've ever flown backwards in a plane followed by an 'inverted spin'. These aerobatics ranged from the the very basic 'beginner' to the top of the range 'unlimited'.

In between aerobatics we flew around Brands Hatch (it seems so small from the air) and even managed to fly up Brabham Striaght upside down whilst watching a bike trackday (must have been the last session as they had their lights on. We also flew around the QE2 bridge at Dartford. Every local landmark I know just seems so very different from the air.

I was even privileged to fly the plane and it was far easier than I imagined. I even managed a few 'flick rolls' myself. The controls are fairly sensitive and needed just a gentle touch. Bearing in mind I had never flown before Justyn was impressed how quickly I picked it up. The one thing I noticed during all the aerobatics was that it was a very smooth ride. I had expected to be thrown around but it's simply not like that.

We were cruising around 140 knots, but I'm not sure what speed we achieved in the aerobatics. All I know is that I experienced +4g and -1g. Getting in is just so similiar to the 7 and, of course, there is the 5-point harness. The strange thing is that although the lap belt and crotch strap are done up as tight as possible, the shoulder straps have to remain loose enough to enable you to insert 3 fingers. Apparently this is to enable you to breathe deeply during the g forces. I have to say it feels very strange hanging upside down supported by just the lap/crotch straps.

Coming in to land is quite interesting too (we're back to where the pilot cannot see where he's going). To keep a clear view of the runway you effectively 'crab' in and only straighten up just before touchdown.

In total we were airborne for 30 mins and I have to say that it was a pretty amazing half-hour. I would have loved to have taken a few piccies up there, but having a hand held camera coming 'loose' and flying around the cockpit during aerobatics is obviously not a good idea.

For those that are interested it has a wingspan of 20', is just 17' 9" long and weighs 1,155 lb. It is powered by a Lycoming AEIO-540, 260 hp engine and is stressed to +6g/-3g. The fuselage is a welded tubular framework with a combination of sheet aluminium panels and fabric covering, padded out with wooden stringers. The tail feathers are also of tubular steel with metal ribs and fabric covered. The wings are built from a combination of different woods. With two spars and built up ribs, the frame is internally braced, clad with an alloy leading and trailing edge then fabric covered.

Drinving home in the 7 afterwards seemed comparatively tame!