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Addictive Simulations – Pitts Special S-1 Review

Addictive Simulations have released a Pitts Special S1 which is a light aerobatic biplane designed for FSX and FS2004.  This is a biplane single seater, tail dragger racer.  This is a stunner of a reasonably fast manoeuvrable aerobatic and even acrobatic racer.  It is a very nice model, very crisp lines and some nice animation touches.  It is great to fly and coupled with Just Flight’s Airshow Pilot it certainly gave me hours of fun and excitement during the review.  I want to park one of these next to my car and take-off down the street — imagine the looks on the neighbour’s faces.  I only reviewed the FSX version.

Figure 1 a Pitts Special Level Flight??

PITTS Special S1 – T — The Deodorised or Mining Review

Addictive Simulations have released a Pitts Special S1 which is a light aerobatic biplane designed for FSX and FS2004.  This is a biplane single seater, tail dragger racer.  This is a stunner of a reasonably fast manoeuvrable aerobatic and even acrobatic racer.  It is a very nice model, very crisp lines and some nice animation touches.  It is great to fly and coupled with Just Flight’s Airshow Pilot it certainly gave me hours of fun and excitement during the review.  I want to park one of these next to my car and take-off down the street — imagine the looks on the neighbour’s faces.  I only reviewed the FSX version.

 Background: (Courtesy of Wikipedia):
The Pitts S1 was designed by Curtis Pitts in 1943—1944, and although the design has been refined over the years since the first flight in September 1944, it still remains quite close to the original in design and handling.  The Pitts Special won most of the world’s aerobatic competitions during the 1960/1970s and, and remains today a very competitive aircraft in its category.  The S1 denotes it is a single seat plane and there is also an S2 aerobatic trainer variant with, not surprisingly, seating for two.  Curtis Pitts died in 2005 and the Pitts Special is currently produced by Aviat Aircraft.  The model (S1 single-seater) modelled by Addictive simulations is powered by a 200 hp (150 kW) flat-4 Lycoming engine (constant speed) with a 17 ft 4 in (5.28 m) wingspan and is only 15½’ long.  The wing is usually a flat M6 aerofoil section with lower wing ailerons only, I’m not sure if the Active Simulations’ Pitts is modelled this way, but knowing the team, it probably is!

A couple of real-life Pitts S-1 specials:

Figure 2 Pitts S1 Courtesy WikiPedia (Wiki commons)

Figure 3 Courtesy WikiPedia (Wikicommons)

Installation:
Installation was painless with a self extracting “exe” file which installs in the correct FSX locations, after inserting a supplied installation key.

Settings:  
On my system in the Select aircraft menu in FSX under “Publisher” I was presented with a tab for “Addictive Simulations” and this allows the choice of the 6 liveries.  My flight control settings were full right — more realistic than you can get.   However I did start with the realism settings made somewhat easier until I had completed training with Just Flight’s Air Show Pilot.  Once I became more proficient (if that is possible) I gradually increased the realism settings to full right again.

Manual:

The manual is short, but it describes the salient features of the Pitts Special.  It details, installation, loading, future updates, brief specification, description of the cockpit, configuration, support, and credits.  The few illustrations/pictures are clear and annotated appropriately.  I was disappointed I wanted a longer manual especially one that would have taught me how to fly a triple reverse upside down Immelmann!!!  Fortunately the forum and YouTube have some useful pointers on these essential aerobatic manoeuvres, including rolls, dives, slips and stalls.  There are good descriptions of aerobatic manoeuvres here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerobatic_maneuver.  However, I have discovered that an ‘extras’ pack is on its way which may contain instructions on how to fly the various aerobatic manoeuvres.  Now after much searching and advice from Addictive simulations I found a reference manual.  I had opened this and dismissed it as it seemed to have poor photocopies of the various specifications of the Pitts S-1.  This document, much of which in my opinion should be in the main manual, contains the maximum and minimum speeds for the various aerobatic manoeuvres as well as the “cold” start procedure, which is based on the real world example.

The Visual Aspect:
The models are excellent with clean crisp lines brimming with detail.  The 6 liveries depict real life (GB, US) and fictional variants and are accurately depicted.  There are some great animations starting with the pilot (male or female or no one), to chocks, oil drip tray and tie downs.  The pilots can be removed and they even wear “sunnies” when it is bright enough.  Jane of Addictive Simulations tells me that the FSX Pitts Special is based on a real life plane owned by a pilot named Adrian Mardlin.

Figure 4 Addictive Simulations Pitts Special S-1 G-BRBN

Figure 5 Addictive Simulations Pitts Special s-1 G-BKPZ

Figure 6 Addictive Simulations Pitts Special S-1 N-666BM

Figure 7 Addictive Simulations Pitts Special S-1 ZK-PIT

Figure 8 Addictive Simulations Pitts Special S-1 UNMARKED

Figure 9 Addictive Simulations Pitts Special S-1 G-BTTR

Figure 10 Addictive Simulations Pitts Special S-1 Configuration Editor – Animation Features

The Interior is excellent and austere, and it clearly depicts the various and varied controls of this little whizz-bomb.  I’ll discuss and illustrate the interior a little later in this review.

Pilot Access:
The Pitts S-1 has no doors just a sliding canopy, which is opened and closed using the default FSX “Shift + E” toggle setting.  The pilot is animated, depicted as male or female and can be made to leave the cockpit.  There “stand-on” plates either side of the fuselage.

Figure 11 Canopy Acess for female pilot with “sunnies”

Specifications of the Pitts Special S-1:
These are well documented in the manual so I will not repeat them her except to say that the top speed is around (never exceed) 175 KIAS (203mph) and the Cruise Speed is around 156 KIAS (180 mph) and at only 1500 lbs, it’s a lightweight!!  I never did find out what the aerobatic speed should be – presumably the ‘never exceed’?  The fuel load is a measly 24 Gallons, so this plane is built for short fast bursts and not for long distances over ground.  The theoretical range is around 280 nm so we have a fuel burn of 10+gallons per nm (14 gallons/hr) which at a speed of 160 KIAS would take around 1¾ hours.  I tried this and my fuel ran out at around 200 nm but I may have been going faster than 160 KIAS at times.

FPS:
I did not see any significant drop in performance (frame rates) in FSX in this plane.

Instruments in the Interior:

The instruments are well modelled, include the usual suspects, are easy to see and read, and are very well laid out exactly as in the real deal.  They are authentic in design being based on the real life variant owned by the aforementioned Adrian Mardlin.  There is both a VC panel and a 2D panel and the instruments that are an exact copy of the panel in Adrian’s plane.  The exception is the GPS 295 which is the default FSX gauge.  It should be noted that some of the gauges “pop-up” or increase in size when clicked to make them easier to read, but again a TrackIR will come into its own especially when performing complex aerobatics.  Most of the instruments are mapped to the shift keys ie main panel; “Shift + 1” etc, and one grouch that I had was that I would have liked the pop-ups larger, the GPS295 especially.  Subsequently, with information from Jane of Addictive Simulations, I learned that all of the pop-ups can be dragged or resized to any size and the panel will then ‘remember’ this size for subsequent flights.  Further, Jane informs me that, “In the VC there are also preset camera positions which zoom onto the gauges which you can cycle with the A key” (see figures below).  During the review I swapped the GPS295 for the SimFlyer GPS295 gauge using FS Panel Studio and that made quite a difference both visually and operationally.  This is not a plane that you would really fly at night, the panel instruments are lit but there are no taxiing or landing, navigation, strobe, etc lights and this is the same for Adrian’s real world plane.  In fact I have learned that, “The aircraft is certified for daylight “fine day” flying only and has been exempted by the CAA for lighting requirements.  Most Pitts’ aircraft are configured in the same way.”  Although there is no indication in the documentation as to which gauges are custom and those that are default FSX, I have found out that all the gauges except the GPS 295 were custom built for this plane.  Another nice feature that the developers includes is that you can click on the joystick and it will be removed it for an uninterrupted view of the central instruments.

Figure 12 Addictive simulations Panel Pop-ups


Shift + 1          Main Panel
Shift + 2          Radios
Shift + 3          GPS 295
Shift + 4          Configuration Editor (See Figure 10)
Shift + 5          Right Panel Gauges
Shift + 6          Navigation gauges
Shift + 7          Centre Gauges
Shift + 8          Left Panel Gauges

Configuration Editor:
This is mapped to key “Shift + 4” (see figure 10) and this gives access to the advanced options for example:

  • Male Pilot, Female Pilot, No Pilot;  (Adrian or Jasmine, or The Invisible Man)
  • Chocks
  • Oil Drip Tray (oil Pan)
  • Tie Downs (Tags)

Figure 13 SHIFT + 1 Main Panel

Figure 14 SHIFT +2 Radio Panel Resized and moved

Figure 15 SHIFT + 3 GPS295

Figure 16 SHIFT + 6 NAV Gauges

Figure 17 SHIFT + 5 RIGHT PANEL Gauges

Figure 18 SHIFT + 8 Left Panel gauges

Figure 19 SHIFT + 7 Centre Gauges

Other Internal View using the “A” Key:

Figure 20 Addictive Simulations Pitts VC GPS and RADIO STACK

Figure 21 Addictive Simulations Pitts VC LEFT PANORAMIC VIEW

Figure 22 Addictive Simulations Pitts VC RIGHT PANORAMIC VIEW

Figure 23 Addictive Simulations Pitts VC MAIN PANEL

The Payload and Maintenance Choices:
These are set within the Sim for a single pilot and fuel load.  There was no maintenance menu for servicing the plane as you get with some add-ons, but that’s a minor detail.  There are however some of animations as I mentioned above.  One point I need to mention is that the animations are coordinated with aeroplane movement, ie the control surfaces are accurately animated, for example, during a turn, climb, etc the pilot’s head will move appropriately.

In the air:
The engines can be started manually, but as usual, I found that Ctrl + E is a much simpler option.  I eventually found the instructions for the correct sequence of starting the engines, tucked away in the reference manual that I had not bothered to read thinking it was a photocopy of the performance specs for the ‘real world’ Pitts Special. The cold and dark procedure works well and accurately follows that of its real world equivalent.  Initially, this is not an easy plane to fly (probably because it resembles how a real world plane flight characteristics).  Hence, even with all of my controls in FSX to ‘easy’ ie to the far left.  I had to practice a lot just to get the plane to fly straight and level consistently and using the training included in Just Flight’s Airshow Pilot was a big help.  There was some engine torque when taking off (rectified with the rudder pedals) and because the Pitts is a tail-dragger and with a large engine limits the forward vision for taxiing, but using the usual techniques taxiing is reasonably easy.  The tail steering wheel is animated (see below) and I steered the plane using the G940 rudder pedals without any problems.

Once in the air everything happens very fast and I can’t count the number of times that I attempted a ‘simple’ turn and found that I was into a kamikaze spin following which was a nightmare to regain control.  However, as I got more proficient I found that the plane handles beautifully without vices (well — not many)!  The controls are extremely light and responsive, and so you need to execute any manoeuvres such as turns or descents with a very light touch on the controls, treading on eggshells comes to mind.  Once you reach a comfortable cruising height (I used 10,000’), it’s easy to keep to that by judicious use of throttle and trim.  The optimum climb speed is ≈ 95 to 100 kias and at that speed, it climbs at a rapid rate of ≈ 2,500 fpm and I reached 10’000’ in ≈ 5 minutes or so which is fast!

Stalls & Spins:
The stall was induced, using my usual parameters,: ie in level flight at around 10,000’, neutral trim, speed ≈ 55 KIAS at which speed the controls became heavy with some shaking on the stick (FSForce) and then usually developed into a fast spin which was not easy to correct at first using the appropriate techniques.  With experience and an ultra light touch on the controls I eventually got the stall and any subsequent spin under quite good (but not perfect) control.  The Hammerhead turn stall was also practised with limited success.

Side Slipping:
As I have stated before, “Side slipping “ is basically losing height without gaining speed and in this plane it was so easy due to its tremendous aerobatic properties and I achieved more ‘over spins’ than ‘under spins’ due to my inexperience.).  I was using opposite rudder and aileron obviously without flaps.

Aerobatics:
This plane was designed for daylight aerobatic flying and I had a ‘ball’ testing out its capabilities.  When starting these manoeuvres I used the FSX Default Extra 300 using the training missions and then the training in ‘JF Airshow Pilot’.  It took me well over 30 flying hours to achieve anything approaching proficiency, and I estimate I would need a lot more flying time to become totally competent.  The Pitts is amazing, it will turn on a ‘sixpence’ (‘cent’, ‘pfennig’, ‘mark’, ‘pyas’, ‘rouble’, whatever).  It is very sensitive and needs minute steady input to the controls to retain maximum control when flying.  In all of the aerobatic manoeuvres I loaded only about 8 gallons of fuel which gave me enough flight time without the weight to perform these aerobatics.

I tried (with varying degrees of success) the five basic aerobatic flight manoeuvrers:

  1. Lines (horizontal & vertical),
  2. Loops,
  3. Rolls,
  4. Spins, and
  5. Hammerheads.

Conquer these 5 (I didn’t) and you can fly any fancy manoeuvre that’s available, such as starting either right way up or inverted, backwards and/or having extra rolls added including ham salad.

Aerobatic Manoeuvres that I flew (Hmm!!):

Aerobatic Manoeuvre

Brief Description

S or F

Line

Straight Line at set Altitude

Reasonable Success

Inverted Line

Straight Line at set Altitude but inverted

Partial Success

Backward Line

Straight Line at set Altitude but entering backwards

No Way

Backward Inverted Line

Straight Line at set Altitude but entering backwards and inverted

Are you kidding!!

Roll simple

Roll left or right rolling over until back in your original position without losing too much altitude or deviation from the heading.  The rudder and elevator are not used, just ailerons.

Partial Success

Inverted and/or backward

Inverted roll

Too hard

Barrel/Snap Rolls

Barrel: Combination of a loop and a roll;  A steep climb followed by a roll, into a dive to level flight at original height, speed and heading.

Snap: Autorotation one wing stalled.

Blacked out due to G Force

Spin

Erect (Right way up); Inverted and Flat
Basically: Spins have. Stall to spin, the plane followed by the auto-rotation of a set number of turns eg: ¾, 1, 1 ¼ and 1 ½ turns.  To succeed the rotation must stop exactly after a specified number of turns and then you should gain full control of the plane.

Erect only — partial success

Figure of 8 eg Cuban Eight

Fly a figure of 8 with looping and rolls and straight flight.

No! I was smoking and it wasn’t a Cuban.

Hammerhead Stall Turn

Fly and start with a quarter loop into a vertical climb.  When the plane stops climbing, apply (right) rudder & thrust, and the plane pivots around its vertical axis and the nose eventually points down.  Finish with a quarter of a loop to horizontal flight.

Limited Success

Immelmann

This is a ½ (180 °) loop to upside down then and immediately into a ½ roll to level flight in one smooth movement without pauses.

Partial Success

The Knife Edge

Basically a roll stoped at 90° and flying at 90° to the ground.

Partial Success

The Scissors

Flying in a zig-zag fashion

Limited Success

The manoeuvres were easier to achieve when using smoke (“i” key) during a particular aerobatic movement.

Aerobatic Sighting Devices aka “Aerosight”:
The AS Pitts is equipped with a non-adjustable Aerobatic sight on the port wing.  These devices are used in real world flying for aligning vertical rolls and such like and determining whether you are too steep or too shallow, etc.  They are usually square (there are other shapes) being set at a 45° angle (see Figure 41) and clamp to an I-strut tube between the wings, and travel backwards so that the pilot can see the sight.  On the S-1 they can only usually be adjusted (hand-bent) longitudinally for final alignment which is usually done on the ground after flying basic manoeuvres (under the watchful eye of an experienced aerobatic expert on the ground), such as ‘Aresti’ figures, gyroscopics and dive tests.  There is an excellent article on how to use and adjust the sight here: http://www.tinyurl.com.au/ffz.  They can be fitted to both wings, in the AS Pitts the sight is fitted to the left wing so you would roll to the left when using the device.  I tried it and it was quite useful in the hammerhead turn stall!

Here are some shots for the various aerobatic procedures:

Figure 24 Pitts Special S1 TOP of the LOOP

Figure 25 Pitts Special S1 Start of the ROLL

Figure 26 Pitts Special S1 START of the LOOP — ROLL or ROLL – LOOP

Figure 27 Pitts Special S1 KNIFE EDGE as best as I can get it

Figure 28 Pitts Special S1 The Hammerhead pivot down

Figure 29 Pitts Special S1 Hammerhead Start

Figure 30 Pitts Special S1 Inverted Thingy

Figure 31 Pitts Special S1 HAM ROLL

Figure 32 Pitts Special S1 RIGHT WAY UP

Figure 33 Pitts Special S1 CUBAN 8

Figure 34 Pitts Special S1 Start of the Immelmann

Figure 35 Pitts Special S1 that darned Hammerhead again

Figure 36 Pitts Special S1 INVERTED ROLL

Figure 37 Pitts Special S1 SIDE ON Hammerhead

Figure 38 Pitts Special S1 PART of a Barrel ROLL

Figure 39 Pitts Special S1 OOPS!

Landing and Approach:
I landed with no flaps employing my ‘usual’ settings for landing, ie a rich mixture and speed reduced to about 80 — 100 KIAS at a height of ≈1,000’.  Descending, on final, I reduced speed progressively to around 80 — 90 KIAS at around 500’, reducing to around 70 – 80 KIAS (and when I could, slower) over the threshold, flaring to land by easing the stick back in order to attempt the perfect 3-point landing.  I didn’t attempt any night landings as this is basically a “day” plane.

Sounds:
The sounds are unique (more of a buzz than a throaty roar) and well balanced giving a sense of realism inside and out, and Jane of Addictive Simulations informs me that they are based on Adrian’s real world Pitts S-1.

Repaints:
A bit early but they’ll be around, that’s for sure.

Support:
A dedicated forum on AVSIM.  http://forums1.avsim.net/forum/363-addictive-simulations-forum/   I have used the forum on a number of occasions and the replies were fast and excellent.

Summing Up: 
A  great little plane from ‘newcomers’ Addictive Simulations, the quality is excellent, and I was very impressed.  This is a plane that begs to be thrown around the sky with great abandon.  As I flew both the Pitts Special S-1 and the default Extra 300, it was inevitable that I would compare both of them.  Quite frankly, there was very little between them and having both a mono plane and a bi-plane gave me a lot experience in keeping these little bullets in the sky.  In the end the more accurate flight dynamics of the Pitts Special won the day!  The best fun that you can have is when you switch on all the stress and crash features in FSX, and find that that turn/roll you thought was great 5 minutes ago actually tears the wings off and when you hit the ground, you crash and burn and the sim grinds to a halt.  The Addictive Simulation’s Pitts S-1 looks good, inside and out with lots of precise detail and animations.  The manual is short but clear and it gives good insight into what control does what.  If you want to win every aerobatic mission/competition/race (including Red Bull) that comes along, then you can’t do better than this pocket rocket.  Aresti Notation never looked better!  This is the plane for your aerobatic hangar and as they say over on the Red Bull website, “Smoke On”.

WOW Factor: 9/10

Peter Hayes, Australia, July 2010.

Post Script:
A couple of images that I forgot:
The first one shows the working “Tail Steering” which emulates real life and once I got the hang of it, it made taxiing much easier.

Figure 40 Pitts Special S1 TAIL WHEEL Steering

The second depicts the PORT side thingy or Aerobatic Sighting Device

Figure 41 Pitts Special S1 PORT WING Ribbon ‘aka Aerobatic sighting device’ to show which way is up or down or forward or backwards!

Table of the Important Bits:

Publisher:

Addictive Simulations

Supplier:

http://www.addictive.it/Pitts

Download 
File Size:

162 MB (exe file)

Installation 
File Size:

Approx 241 MB

Simulator Requirement:

FSX supports SP2 (or Acceleration/Gold) (FS2004 version available)

OS Requirements:

Win XP, Vista and/or Win 7;

Variants:

1 Model S-1

Paint Schemes

6 Different paint schemes plus removable male or female pilot plus other animations

Cockpit

3D (VC) and 2D

Supplementary:

N/A

Testing System:

Intel i7860, 4GB DDR 1600 RAM, Windows 7 64, GeForce GTX 460, 258.96 Driver; FSX Gold; 120GB  OCZ Colossus SSD SATA II.  Logitech G940 controller; No Tweaks all standard and no over-clocking.

Scenery:

FSX standard, PI KHSP; UTX USA & CAN; GEXn; FS Genesis LC/Mesh; MTX 5.3

Installation:

Installation is simplicity itself being automatic via a self extracting exe file and validation is by a supplied code.  .

Manuals / Documentation

One short manual, 10pp and a Reference booklet approx 10pp.

Support:

http://www.addictive.it/Pitts

 


Forum/FAQ:

http://forums1.avsim.net/forum/363-addictive-simulations-forum/

Uninstallation:

Un-installation Procedure included

Updates

SP1 imminent

3 comments to Addictive Simulations – Pitts Special S-1 Review

  • Thank you for such a comprehensive review Peter!

    Just a couple of things I want to make clear. The reference manual that you refer to is an exact copy of the original pilots notes. We were asked specifically to leave them “as is” for people to print out as authentically as possible.

    Also, the success or fail section of the aerobatics list rather sounds like our plane cannot do those things. They can, it just needs practice because the flight dynamics are very very real. I wanted to point out for people this is how well you got on with the moves whilst learning the aircraft, not a limitation of the aircraft itself.

    Again, I thank you for such an excellent review!

    Jane

  • peterhayes

    Author’s response:
    I do make the point of my inexperience several times in the review and never criticize the plane or its handling in any way. Quote:”This is a plane that begs to be thrown around the sky with great abandon.” and “In the end the more accurate flight dynamics of the Pitts Special won the day! ”
    I think that my review is honest and comprehensive and the people who read will see that this is a very nice plane, but it will take practice to become proficient.
    I also mention that it took me well over 30 hours to become somewhat proficient in these types of aircraft.
    I stand by my comments on the reference manual, I still believe that the “cold and dark” starting procedure could have been reproduced in the main manual.
    I will correct the support/web addresses as you suggest. I am non-plussed about the AVSIM reference as I actually went to the support site and copied the URL. Here is the correct forum link: http://forums1.avsim.net/forum/363-addictive-simulations-forum/
    and the correct link for the website is:www.addictive.it/Pitts
    Regards
    Peter

  • Peter,

    I see this is described as a model for FSX and FS9… Is the X part a full implementation with spec and bump? I have already been bitten far to often by so called FSX planes not really being so. A true FSX model is not only a case of having been exported from the modelling program according to the SDK, it also has to have correct textures to really qualify for the X.

    I have also been following this plane’s owners on other fora and the sound is apparently disappointing. Is there a patch out or planned?

    I have at least four Pittses currently installed (and a couple of other related birds) in X and two Christens. I only fly the one Eagle – the Iris one of course – because it is the ONLY plane that really cuts the ice in FSX. Second best – even in X – is the Long island classics Eagle. I’ll even fly default planes before I fly any other so called aerobatic biplane.

    Even the default Extra…

    …mind you – I am open to learn new things.