Wednesday 26 October 2011

Pitts S 1 Specials of New Zealand - Homegrown (1)

The Pitts Special was designed by Curtis Pitts during 1943-44 and first flew in September 1944. It is widely accepted that the Pitts Special was the standard by which all other aerobatic aircraft were judged, and it reigned supreme until purpose-built monoplanes appeared on the aerobatic scene.

Limited numbers of aircraft were produced during the late 1940's and 1950's. Plans went on sale in 1962 and many homebuilt aircraft followed, including 8 homegrown S 1's in New Zealand (to date).

The original S1 was followed by the S 1C which was amatuer built and had 2 ailerons, the S 1D with 4 ailerons, the S 1E had symmetrical airfoils and the derivative S 1F had the Falcon wing modification with square wingtips and larger ailerons. The S 1S was factory built for competition and the S 1T was factory built with a 200 HP Lycoming motor.

The photos are from the Keith Morris collection unless otherwise noted.

New Zealand's first Pitts Special was ZK-DOH (c/n AACA/121) which was started in Hamilton (Hamilton was a hotbed of early Pitts Special activity), but was completed by Chris Pask of Hastings. It was a S 1C model with ailerons only on the bottom wings. It was first registered on 11/1/76 and it is photo'd here at the 1976 AACA flyin at Kaikohe. I remember my first sight of it when it took off obscured by other aircraft and rocketed into the sky! (This was in the time of Turbulents and Jodels). One neat touch added by Chris Pask was the embossed leather patches on either side of the cockpit.
ZK-DOH was sold to Peggy Perry of Hamilton on 29/3/78 and it is shown here at the 1983 AACA fly-in at Paraparaumu.

It was then sold to Dennis Thompson International Ltd in 1983, who sold it to W Sneddon of Nelson on 9/5/84, and it was then sold to R E Turner, also of Nelson, on 12/11/84.  It is photo'd above on 25/1/89 in a hangar at Nelson, by Blue Bus

It was then sold to Moss G Smith of Puriri near Thames on 8/9/89. It is photo'd here at the 1990 AACA fly-in at Waipukurau. It was damaged at Taupo on 20/2/90.

Moss Smith was a very keen aerobatic pilot and he rebuilt ZK-DOH as a S 1F model with the Falcon wing conversion as photo'd here at the NZ Aerobatic Championships at Waipukurau in 1991.

Moss Smith upgraded and repainted ZK-DOH to this blue colour scheme, as photo'd by Blue Bus at the 1994 AACA flyin at Paraparaumu.

It was finally sold to M R Smith of Inglewood on 24/10/95, and it was withdrawn on 1/7/02.
Our second Pitts Special has an interesting story. ZK-ECO (AACA/337/1)was commissioned by Tim Wallis and was mostly built by Bob Goding at Hamilton, and it was registered to him on 20/11/75. It was completed by Drake Aviation and was first flown on 1/5/83 by Keith Trillo (who had also built a Pitts). It was an S 1E model with the 4 ailerons. I do not have a record of who took the above photo or where it was taken (later advice that the photo was taken by Greybeard), but it must have been early on in its life as it does not have the Pitts Special logo on the tail.

Sadly it only flew a very few hours before being involved in a fatal accident on 24/5/85 while undertaking low level aerobatics at Beacon Point near Wanaka, killing its pilot (see comments below). The wreckage was returned to Hamilton and it was cancelled on 30/3/88. Thanks to Bob Goding for this photo (after a lot of tracking down).

But this was not the end of ZK-ECO! It reappeared again at Hamilton with a new constructors number (AACA/1061) after having been rebuilt by E C Roberts, and it was re-registered on 19/2/90. It was finally cancelled from the New Zealand register on 26/4/04 when it was sold to the UK as G-CCXK, where it is still current and painted in the same colours. Thanks to Philip Treweek for the above photo which was taken at Rukuhia on 24/8/97.


  1. If my memory is correct the Wanaka '83 crash was a Kiwi [with a Polish name] who had been an expatriate in the UK for many years and was a prominent display pilot at the time.

  2. True.
    I went to school with Stefan in Whangarei.

  3. With respect to the first shot of ZK-ECO, I took it on 2 May 83 at Christchurch. My notes from the time say that it was Keith Trillo in the cockpit, and that he had made the first flight the day before ie: 1 May 83, rather than the date in the blog. Cheers.

  4. Ref. ECO--was built from the S1D plans ,but Pitts built symmetrical
    wings made it an S1E---same as the factory built,S1S with 180 HP some trouble with the authorities as 150 HP was maximum permitted then. All changed before it flew.
    Stefan Kowalski crash--25/05/85
    I believe

  5. Thank you Greybeard - you are of course correct, the first flight date for ZK-ECO was 1/5/83. And thanks for sending me the photo way back then.

    Now an abject apolgy - Blue Bus had provided the date of the accident to ZK-ECO as 25/5/85. I had reports that it only flew a very few hours, so I assumed that the crash was on 25/5/83 (giving it time to accumulate only a very few hours). If the crash was 2 years later, what happened to ZK-ECO in those 2 years?

  6. I think it had a total time of about 8 hours ---It just sat in the hangar at Luggate

  7. Thanks very much for that Bob. Case closed. I will now move on to posting other Pitts's!

  8. Thanks flyernzl...met him in the UK early '80s - good guy.

  9. It had 13 hours on the clock which stay there when I rebuilt it and used same clock.It still has your little cartoon on the back of the turtle deck as well.

  10. Does anyone here know what actually happened to ZK-DOH? When Moss owned that aircraft i was a budding engineering student and spent time on it with him painting the new "Falcon" wing so i would love to know where it ended up.

  11. Hi Brian.
    Moss sold it to Murray Smith of Inglewood in about October of 1995. It was withdrawn and cancelled on 01-07-2002.
    Don't know why - and don't know what happened to after that.

  12. Moss Smith is my uncle. He sadly passed away a number of years ago. What I didn't know was his old Pitts ended up in Inglewood, where I now live.

    I will have to ask around and see if I can track it down.

    Grant Farquhar

  13. Hi all, as chrisr commented she had 13hr on the clock before Stefan Karwowski's crash. The accident report (copy currently in hand, confirming the 13hr on airframe, engine and prop) states the accident was on 25 April 1985.