The Definition of "Bitchin'"
Model 12 Pitts Special
What’s better than a biplane? That’s obvious:
a biplane with a round motor. And what’s better than a biplane
with a round motor? A round-motored biplane that’s designed by
When you’re saddling up the Model 12, it feels like a much bigger
than a normal two-place Pitts, when in reality it’s not. As I
dropped into the rear cockpit, however, there was no doubt that this
was a big guy’s airplane because the fuselage is so much wider
to mate with the 360 hp, Russian M-14P radial engine.
The M-14P engine is the most fun thing to happen to sport aviation since
Curtis designed the first Pitts Special. The Russians and Romanians
cranked them out by the thousands, they cost far less than Lycomings
and Continentals, are built like tanks and…well…they are
round. So, we’re now seeing lots of fun airplanes built around
The engine starts via a pneumatic system that pumps air into cylinders
in sequence and, if you’ve got all the valves set correctly and
hold your mouth just right, it fires instantly. The sound is so tough
sounding it’s no wonder one of the airplane’s early names
(it still has an identity problem) was “Macho Stinker” in
keeping with the long line of Pitts Special “Stinkers.”
I was told two things before flying the airplane. First, because prop
clearance is limited, you fly it off the ground in a three-point position
and second, because the prop turns the “wrong” way (counter
clockwise as seen from the cockpit) I’d be using the left foot,
rather than the right to handle torque and gyroscopic precession on
As I started the throttle forward I realized they hadn’t prepared
me for something else—acceleration like nothing I’d experienced
outside of something like a Bearcat. The runway was only visible in
slim wedges on both sides of the nose but I forgot about the lack of
visibility as soon as I felt myself being slammed into the seat cushions.
The airplane clawed its way into the air and immediately started moving
right: that big prop was doing it’s best to torque the airplane.
So, my left foot went forward. Then it went forward some more. Zowie!
Was this thing ever a tiger!
I went upstairs at a record rate (3,000 fpm plus) all the time basking
in the delicious melody that can be sung only by a round motor. Love
At altitude I had to remind myself that, in Curtis’s words, he’d
designed it to be an “old man’s aerobatic airplane.”
Even so, it still managed to roll better than just about any other biplane
out there and doing loops was a hoot: that big engine and prop feel
like you have a locomotive dragging you over the top. Jim and Kevin
Kimble (www.pittsmodel12.com) of Zellwood, Florida offer kits for the
airplane that feature shorter wings and fuselage that make the airplane
much more nimble.
With that big nose hiding the runway, I flew the typical turning approach
with a slip at the end both for visibility and to control the glide
slope. After touch down the airplane is much more directionally stable
than any other Pitts, which is really nice.
Did I like the airplane? Well, I now have a brand new M-14P engine sitting
in my hangar and that must say something.
Peanut Pirep? Return to PEANUT.