The plane I perform in – the Pitts S-1-11B

OverTheTopImagine sitting in a Formula One race car that has wings.  Pretty much, that is how I can describe my plane.   I really like having horse power at my fingertips.  My airplane has that, plus it is very light weight.   For example, when I line up at the end of runway, I briskly apply full power.  The torque of the engine is wanting to pull me off the runway and into the ditch.  So, I have to apply opposite rudder to keep it from doing just that.   As I accelerate rapidly, I lift off the ground in about 7 seconds.   Then let the airplane build to 120 MPH at only 5 feet off the ground, now I pull the aircraft control stick back towards me and the airplane lifts off the ground, still accelerating.   I climb at a speed of 120MPH and at about 4,000 feet per minute.  On the ground, you would hear a racing motor with it’s propeller blades pushing past the speed of sound.  It’s a really loud plane that is absolutely fun to fly.

The aircraft I fly is the awesome looking Black and Yellow factory built Pitts Muscle Bi-Plane.  The Pitts S-1-11B!

There are only two factory built S-1-11B aircraft flying in the world today. With a 330+ H.P. six cylinder Lycoming (AEIO-540) motor, Cold Air Induction, 10.5 to 1 High Compression pistons, and 3 bladed Hartzell Claw Propeller, this aircraft has all the ingredients for a great airshow performance. The S-1-11B has only a single seat and it is very light weight (1185 pounds dry), providing a perfect platform for flying high energy aerobatics! The Pitts bi-plane is made of metal tubing frame, wood spar/ribs, and mostly fabric covering. This helps keep the airplane light weight. However, fabric is sensitive and can quickly puncture if not careful! Jon-Melby-Taxi

This S-1-11B cruises at 195 MPH (165 knots) and can climb nonstop vertically from zero to 2,500 feet at sea level. During normal climb out, it does an amazing 4,000+ feet per minute climb rate!  Compared to a small single engine passenger plane that climbs at around 750 feet per minute.  Fuel capacity on this aircraft is 28 gallons in a single main tank, 5 gallons in the wing and 10 gallons in a reserve tank. Fuel burn at cruise is approximately 13 gallons per hour. During the airshow routine, the S-1-11B is burning approximately 25+ gallons per hour.

Jon-With-Melissa-FlyingThe smoke you see behind the airplane is created with special oil which is the same consistency as salad oil. Usually using Chevron Canopus 13 or Shell Dialys-ax grade of oil.  This is stored in a 10 gallon smoke tank located under the main fuel tank. The smoke oil is pumped to the aircraft exhaust via a standard automotive type fuel pump. Once the oil hits the hot exhaust pipes, bingo—it turns into smoke! The oil does not catch on fire as long as the aircraft is moving. The burnt oil doesn’t smell great, especially in the cockpit.  I’ve actually coughed sometimes while performing if I am hanging around at zero speed and the cockpit fills with smoke.   At one time, I thought about putting some aftershave in the smoke tank to make it smell better.  But then my flight suit would smell like some sort of “horrible” cologne.  So I opted not to do that.

For traveling, there are three on-board GPS navigation systems, all providing a moving map display. One of the systems is a fixed mount and the other two are portable units providing full color Aviation GPS information.  One of them has XM Weather radar and XM radio, so I receive current aviation weather and great music at the same time.  No matter where I am at, especially during some of the long flight legs to Canada or Mexico.Jon Melby's Pitts

With the speed, agility, and on-board navigation systems, I can fly my Pitts Bi-Plane to any show in North America!!  With a transport container, the Pitts can easily be taken apart and shipped to anywhere in the world.   Hopefully someplace exotic. Smile