Pitts vs Eagle

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Jun 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/17/99
Dear Jordan:
Saw your post regarding the Pitts vs the Christen Eagle. I haven't seen any
good reply's on RAH news group so I thought I would give you some straight
poop. I have some knowledge of the Eagle and the S-2A, I know all the people
involved in the development of these aircraft, helped build an Eagle and have
lots of time in both aircraft as well.

Lets start with some history (at least the way I remeber it)-

Curtis Pitts designed the original Pitts Special S-1 in 1945. In the early
1960's he designed the S-2 (180 HP Lycoming powered) two place Pitts. He got
it certified in 1970. Working with Herb Anderson he started production of the
Pitts S-2A (200 HP) in the old CallAir plant in Afton Wyoming.

My Dad had one of the first S-2A's built in 1971....great little airplane.

In the late 1960's Frank Christensen started flying aerobatics in a Pitt S-1C
he built. Frank was a very early pioneer inn Silicon Valley. He was one of
the first people to figure out how to mass produce chips. Aerobatics became his
hobby and passion, he made tons of money in the chip business.
His aerobatics led to an S-1S, he went on to become the 1970 Advanced National
Aerobatic Champ. Frank was also the Team Captain for the US Aerobatic Team
which won everything in 1972 at Salon de Provence France.

During this time Frank refined the inverted oil system Curtis Pitts invented
but did not patent. Frank went on to get this system certified with Lycoming
engines and developed it for homebuilt aircraft as well. These engines are
known as the AEIO- engines (aerobatic engine, fuel injected, opposed). This
really made Curtis mad because he never got a cent for it. Frank also
developed a few other great products- aerobatic seat belt systems, fuel pumps
etc. All this was done at Frank's private airport outside Hollister
California, he built a small factory right on the airport. This shop became
world renown for its cleanliness and Frank's attention to detail. This
business became so successful that Frank decided to try to buy the Pitts
Factory from Curtis. Curtis was still mad so he said NO. This pissed Frank
off to the point of deciding to develop the Christen Eagle series. Frank hired
Herb Anderson away from the Pitts Factory and started setting up shop.

Originally the Eagle was a series of 4 different aircraft, only the Eagle II
was ever developed. There were 4 Eagle ones built. Three were for the Eagle
Aerobatic Team (Tom Poberezny, Gene Soucy, Charlie Hilliard) and the fourth was
a special model made just for competition. These four aircraft all had 260 HP
AEIO- 540 Lycoming engines. The Eagle II has a 200 HP AEIO-360 Lycoming
Engine. There are several homebuilt mods which have been done to put bigger
engines on the Eagle II, these are rare and never were built by the Christen

The Eagle kit system is second to none even today. Frank was very meticulous.
His kits are still the best the world has ever seen. NO other kit has come as
close to being as complete and with such good instructions as the Eagle. And
this was back in 1975!!

The Eagle II made it's debut at Oshkosh in the summer of 1975. Even the
display booth at Oshkosh has never been topped. The Eagle II is very similar
to the Pitts S-2A. Roughly the same dimensions, same engine, same prop and
close to the same weight. The Eagle is slightly cleaner and is a little
faster. The Eagle has much nicer ergonomics and has better visibility.
However the Eagle doesn't have as nice flying/handling (in my personal opinion)
characteristics as the Pitts S-2A when flown dual aerobatics. The Eagle flies
very nice solo aerobatics but the cg is too far aft with two people in it. I
do not like the way it flies dual akro, I do like the way it flies solo akro.
Performance is about the same.

In late 1982 Frank was finally able to buy the Pitts Factory. By this time
Herb Anderson had moved back to the Pitts Factory to help the new owner, a
local Wyoming real estate developer named Doyle Child, run the factory. This
was when the Pitts S-2B was introduced. Frank had nothing to do with this
project, Herb designed it. Herb also designed the S-2S. Frank and Herb worked
together in the development of the Husky (sort of a modern Super Cub).

Here is quick primer on the aircraft-
S-2 = 2 place, 180 HP Fixed Pitch prop, never in production offered as a kit
for short time as S-2E.
S-2A = 2 place, 200 HP constant speed prop, offered as a certified aircraft
only Many small changes were made in the 1980 model year but basically the same
aircraft (longer gear, wider fuselage in the front seat area etc)
S-2S = 1 place, 260 HP, offered as a certified aircraft, and a few kits were
sold, same airframe just shortened nose for bigger/heavier engine. Front seat
removed and an additonal fuel tank installed. This is what Sean Tucker used to
S-2B = 2 place 260 HP engine sold as certified aircraft only
S-2C = same as -2B but some updates to the airframe and controls. This is what
the factory currently builds

This is how I remember the Eagle aircraft, I dug up some old brochures from
1977 to insure accuracy.
Eagle I = Single place 260 HP Constant speed prop, never developed
Eagle IF = Single place 260 HP, Fixed pitch prop, never developed
Eagle IIF = two place 260 HP, Fixed pitch prop, never developed
Eagle II = this is the only Eagle Kit sold and what you see flying.

There were 4 single place Eagles built. One was for competition. Gene Soucy
and Frank Christensen's son, John flew this aircraft in competition. Also
several members of the Swiss Team flew this aircraft in the 1980 World
Aerobatic contest at Oshkosh.
The other 3 single place Eagles were built for the Eagle Aerobatic Team and
were sort of specialized aircraft.

All the Pitts S-2 series and the Eagle have the same wing span, and wing area
same airfoil. BTW- the airfoil system on the Pitts is another Curtis Pitts
invention and he did patent it. That too will be another story!!

In 1992 Frank sold the Pitts Factory to Malcolm White, who sold it in 1996 to
it's current owner another real estate developer from New York named Stu Horn.

As you can tell Curtis, Frank and Herb are old friends of mine. I admire each
of them. Curtis has grown quite fond of me and my design work. Frank has
since moved to Wyoming to retire. Herb is always urging me on to certify the
DR-109. All three are great men who have influenced me greatly.

Now you probably know more than you ever wanted to know about the S-2 series
and the Eagle. One day when I have more time I'll try to explain the Pitts S-1
series....but that's another story!.

Take care,
Dan Rihn

River - Xtreme Aviation

Jun 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/17/99
Hey Dan,

Thanks for posting that! I really enjoyed reading it, as I'm sure a lot of
others did. I remember reading an article on the differences in Pitts', but I
never really understood it. Now I do!

Thanks again,

"Xtreme...Life is too short not to be!"

In memory and honor of Allen Barklage...One of the greatest pilot to ever set
foot on this earth!

Ric Lee

Jun 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/17/99
Danrihn wrote:
> Dear Jordan:
> Saw your post regarding the Pitts vs the Christen Eagle. I haven't seen any
> good reply's on RAH news group so I thought I would give you some straight
> poop. I have some knowledge of the Eagle and the S-2A, I know all the people
> involved in the development of these aircraft, helped build an Eagle and have
> lots of time in both aircraft as well.

<Snip excellent comparison of Pitts vs Eagle>


Thanks for that informative post. I enjoyed getting the 'behind the
look at the history of these planes.

Ric Lee
Berkut under construction-No JPI in our Bird!


Jun 21, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/21/99
Dear Ric,
Thank you for your comliments. i'm glad you enjoyed my post.
Good luck on your Berkut.
Build well and fly safe,
Dan Rihn

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