What Our Members Are Building/Restoring — Florida Pitts S-1S

By Jeremy Wicker, EAA 1164816

This piece originally ran in the February 2023 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.


After 10 long years, I have finally completed and have begun flight testing my Pitts S-1S. I originally anticipated the scratchbuild to take three years, but I found out quickly that life has a way of slowing things down. Not long after starting the project, I was married; had two children, three surgeries, and three jobs; completed my instrument, commercial, and multi ratings/certificates and got a tailwheel endorsement; and led an EAA chapter, all while working and going to school full time. It took 2,164 construction hours and countless hours of research, engineering, and planning to finally get the project into the air.

It is a bit different from a stock S-1S with a pumped-up angle-valve Lycoming IO-360, squared wingtips, two-thirds span ailerons, an oversized rudder, electronic flight instrument system and digital engine monitor, and revised fuel system. Other than that, it is true to factory plans with the exception of a few reinforced areas of the wings and attach fittings. I was looking for a stock, parallel-valve IO-360 for weight purposes but was fortunate to find the angle-valve engine for a price that I could not turn down. The engine was overhauled and pickled quite a few years back, but upon borescoping it was found to be in immaculate condition.

The installation was not without difficulty as I discovered the intake tubes for the engine interfered with mounting, so a conversion to an A1A sump and intake tubes was needed. I also found that the constant-speed setup could not be used as there is little room between the accessory case and firewall, and the governor adapter would not fit. This also meant the Bendix magnetos would not be usable, and Slicks were the only mag option. This also meant that certain ignition harnesses were unusable. I wanted to get away from the old wobble pump and installed a Weldon boost pump instead. The inverted oil system installation is pretty standard but doesn’t allow for quick drains, so oil changes are a bit messier.

I did not have enough experience to trust myself with the maiden flight, so my good friend Buck Roetman took the controls. The first flight saw the right wing slightly heavy, so two washers were removed from the upper forward left I-strut, and that was resolved. Oil temperature ran slightly high at 220 degrees, so a scoop was fabricated at the oil cooler. There is a slight aileron grab that happens when you fly hands off, but that is getting better. After some great dual instruction from Ben Leclercq in Orlando, I finally felt comfortable taking my machine to the sky for my first time. I waited for a calm morning with a nice 5-knot wind down the runway the following weekend. As I eased the throttle forward, it was amazing how much torque and P-factor were present, and the acceleration was incredible.

Almost immediately the tail was in the air, and I was at 80 mph and becoming airborne. The controls were extremely sensitive, and the CG was absolutely perfect. I still have yet to need elevator trim. This aircraft is different from others I have flown, and things move much faster than your usual GA aircraft. After climbing to 2,500 AGL to get a feel for the control harmony, the realization set in that I have to safely bring home this short-coupled, narrow-gear rocket. In what has probably been my best landing thus far, it settled on the runway, and with a few inputs of the rudder, I rolled safely onto the taxiway. The Pitts has a reputation of being a nightmare to land, and I think that reputation is a bit unwarranted. It is certainly touchy and there is little margin for error, but it is an honest airplane. It does exactly what you tell it to do; just don’t tell it to do the wrong thing.

As of writing this, I have completed six test flights exploring the envelope and capabilities of the airplane and figuring out how to fly and land it better. The engine seems to be breaking in properly; there have been no loose nuts and bolts, and I feel like I’m starting to get a little harmony with the sensitive controls. After the last test flight two days ago testing spins and putting a few g’s on the airframe, I will be checking rigging and flight control hardware torque before the next hop. I owe so much to my friend Buck for being there to answer questions, helping with a few parts, and flying it for me. I also want to thank Clemens Kuhlig, EAA 1015608, for his guidance, advice, and inspecting the airplane, as well as Owen Poirier, Will Huff, Joe Tierney, Bob Jacoby, EAA 776641, Jason Flood, EAA 860060, Jim Stasny, EAA Lifetime 13965, and my wife for letting me build this thing in the garage. You can see the entire build of Wicker Pitts S-1S serial No. 001 on the EAA Builders Log and can follow my progress on Instagram and YouTube with Wicker Aviation.


Attention — Aircraft Builders and Restorers

We would love to share your story with your fellow EAA members in the pages of EAA Sport Aviation magazine, even if it’s a project that’s been completed for a while. Readers consistently rate the “What Our Members are Building/Restoring” section of the magazine as one of their favorites, so don’t miss the chance to show off your handiwork and inspire your peers to start or complete projects of their own. Learn more ->

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