Nitroplanes Pitts Model 12 Python ARF Review, Part One

Affordably priced, large scale fun which can be equipped with a myriad of engine or motor choices, including gasoline. This first installment of a two-part review will cover the basic assembly.



Nitroplanes Pitts Model 12 Python

Wingspan:54" (1370mm)
Wing Area:633.95 sq in (40.9dm2)
Bare Airframe Weight:54.7 oz (1550g)
Length:55.6" (1413mm)
Construction:Balsa/ply airframe, control surfaces and wing struts with polyester covering; fiberglass cowl, landing gear fairings and wheel pants; polycarbonate and lite ply canopy; foam wheels with plastic tires; aluminum mains with steel axles; aluminum cabane struts and wing mounting tabs
Servos:Four LHS Electronics LS-17D digital metal-geared micro servos; two LHS Electronics LS-50D digital high torque metal-geared standard servos ; throttle servo TBD
Transmitter:Airtronics SD-6G six-channel spread spectrum aircraft
Receiver:Airtronics RX700 seven-channel 2.4GHz FHSS-1 full range
Engine:Valley View RC 20cc two-stroke gasoline
Propeller:Valley View RC 17x6 beechwood
Operator Skill Level/Age:Advanced; 14+
Typical Flight Duration:Varies greatly depending on power setup
Price (USD):$159.95 plus shipping and applicable sales tax

What would an airshow be without a biplane? Few full-scale biplanes make the same impact as a Pitts.

The same thing goes for model aircraft and this review is for just such a model.

We'll be visiting the smaller end of the large scale category with the Nitroplanes Pitts Model 12 Python ARF from our friends at It's a bare airframe which appears to be primarily intended for electric power, but may be flown with nitro or even gasoline power as will be the case here. That power will be coming from a Valley View RC 20cc two-stroke gasoline engine and 17x6 beechwood propeller from Valley View RC in Puyallup, Washington.

It presumes that the end user has a lot of experience not only in assembling an ARF, but outfitting it as well since both the manual and Nitroplanes' own page are somewhat mum - and presently incorrect in places - on the setup. For example, the sales page recommends a "70 class" engine. A .70 four-stroke is far too small for this airframe; I assume that it refers to an electric power system.

Thanks are definitely due to Nitroplanes chief technician Roland who set up one of these models as an electric. Roland may be seen flying the electric on a YouTube video linked below.

I should mention that there are two versions of the model which differ by more than simply the color scheme. The yellow and blue version flown in the Nitroplanes video has a 57" (1462mm) wingspan while the yellow, black and silver Pitts Python version reviewed here has a 54" (1370mm) wingspan. Otherwise, they're identical under the skin.

Roland claimed an assembly time of roughly 20 hours for his electric version and this version seemed to take every bit as long even without the Valley View RC engine installation, but have no fear. I'll keep it simple with a two-part review.

This first part will focus on the basic airframe build. Part two will cover the engine installation - an involved but not impossible process - and the flight characteristics.


The Pitts Model 12 is a relatively new airplane. The plane was designed by legendary aircraft designer Curtis Pitts beginning in 1993 with the designs completed by his 80th birthday in 1995.

The Nitroplanes version represents SE-X2A, the famous 400-horsepower Pitts Python flown by aerobatic pilot Jacob Hollander in airshows all over Europe. While the model does not feature the distinctive graphics of the full-scale version, they are available through Callie Graphics in the proper scale. Through the generosity of owner Callie Soden, a set was made available for this review, but it should be noted once more that the model does not come with any graphics other than decals with the brand name of the plane which may be affixed to either side of the tail.


The Pitts comes with the following:

  • Assembled and covered balsa/ply airframe, wings, wing struts and control surfaces
  • Pre-painted fiberglass cowl
  • Pre-painted fiberglass wheel pants
  • Aluminum cabane struts
  • Aluminum landing gear struts
  • Plastic wheels with foam tires
  • Basic hardware package

The following will be needed to complete the model:

  • Four digtal hi-torque mini-servos, 40-50 oz. torque, regular or metal geared
  • Two digital hi-torque standard servos, 100 oz. torque, regular or metal geared
  • One standard servo
  • Servo extensions
  • .90 two-stroke glow engine, .90-1.20 four-stroke glow engine or 20cc gasoline engine
  • Five-channel or greater 2.4 GHz computerized full range spread spectrum radio system
  • Receiver battery
  • Ignition battery for use with a gasoline engine
  • Fuel tank and tubing
  • Propeller and spinner
  • Thirty-minute epoxy
  • Regular thin CA
  • Basic hand tools
  • #11 X-Acto hobby knife or equivalent
  • Rotary tool and suitable bit for trimming the engine cowl
  • Covering iron and sock to iron out lifted areas
  • Field equipment, fuel and oil for an engine-powered model
  • Optional Callie Graphics decal set; a clearcoat such as Top Flite or Testors is required for the printed decals if the model is assembled with a nitro engine in order to prevent damage caused by the oil from the exhaust
  • Optional electronic caliper to determine hardware sizes

My initial impression of the Pitts was a positive one. It arrived via UPS in a plain white display carton inside of a very sturdy - and large - shipping carton with all components neatly packed and securely taped. The cartons, labels and manual don't indicate who the original manufacturer happens to be (and there are some really strange machine translations on the label atop the display carton ), but no matter. This is a nicely done model which looks for all the world like a well-known name brand unit; the odds are good this same factory does work for a lot of distributors.

Here are some detail photos of the packaging and the contents:

The tail section looked a bit flimsy at first glance; it isn't sheeted like the forward half of the fuselage. It is, however, very well reinforced with four beefy carbon fiber rods running the length of the fuselage from the sheeted area on back. Strength shouldn't prove to be an issue, but one should be alert when handling the model so as not to damage the covering.

It's laser cut, jig assembled and very nicely finished with iron-on polyester covering and trim, but some careful work with a covering iron was necessary. The fiberglass cowl and wheel pants were just as beautifully finished and I found myself not looking forward to cutting the cowl for the engine installation. Of course, electric modelers won't have to worry.

Speaking of which, please feel free to contact Nitroplanes for their recommended electric setup since this review will focus on assembling and operating the Pitts with the aforementioned Valley View RC 20cc gasoline engine.



Assembling the lower wing begins easily enough with the installation of the ailerons in the halves of the bottom wing. Although they aren't glued in place, CA hinges are already installed in the slots in the wing.

Step one indicates that a large swath of covering is to be removed from below the wing for the servo installation, but it's already been done at the factory. An immediate error appears in step two, showing the attachment tabs for the wing struts are to be epoxied in place. That didn't sit right with me at all. I mentioned it during a phone conversation with Roland at Nitroplanes; he told me not to epoxy the tabs before making sure the struts are properly aligned once the wings are mounted. He'd noticed the same problem when he assembled his electric.

In short, if those tabs were to be epoxied out of alignment, well, it would be possible re-kit time.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of wrinkles in the covering. My heat gun was handier to grab than my covering iron, so I carefully applied some heat to a wing half. Big mistake.

The trim covering is very thin, resulting in wrinkling which I was unable to iron out. Since the area was all black, an easy fix came in the guise of some ordinary black self-adhesive trim material. It looks OK and in order to keep things consistent, I applied a strip to the other half of the wing.

I consider that lesson to be learned.

The top wing is next and the ailerons install in much the same way as those on the top wing. I say "much" because the ailerons are symmetrical from left to right, including the trim. It's therefore easy to install an aileron upside down with the mounting slot for the control horn on top of the wing rather than beneath it. That said, I goofed one of the ailerons. Off to the hobby shop for some CA hinges. Two lessons learned.

Like the halves of the lower wing, the one-piece top wing had its share of bubbles and wrinkles. This time, I used the covering iron which made fast work of the wrinkles on medium heat. Ditto the fuselage and tail surfaces.

Step three again instructs that the strut mounting tabs be epoxied at this time. As I pointed out, installing the tabs at this point might mean uncorrectable misalignment later.

Steps four, five and six detail the aileron servo and pushrod installation and the joining of the bottom wing halves with the plywood joiner and epoxy. Again, errors popped up.

Step four shows the wooden servo mounting plate being attached in place without the servo. Assembling the mounting plate is shown in step five, but orienting the servos in the position indicated will not allow the output shaft to be placed over the center of the opening. One of the LHS Electronics LS-17D digital micro servos was pressed into service in order to properly align the mounting blocks, each of which were attached with some thirty-minute epoxy. The instructions weren't particularly clear in this instance, but common sense - and ARF assembly experience - won out in the end. To find out more about these terrific servos, go here.

Once the servos were in place on their respective plates, I attached some 12" servo extensions to each servo (JR Sport JSP98030) before mounting the plates to the wings. The arms looked to be a bit short; they don't extend very far past their openings.

The solution was at the local hobby shop in the guise of a set of Du-Bro #674 super strength servo arms for JR servos. Much better.

However, installing each plate in both wings presented another small problem, that of each forward servo mounting block bumping up against the wing spar. So much for carefully insuring that the servo arms were centered over the openings! Some work with a sanding drum chucked in my Dremel and carefully applied to the spars solved each clearance problem. The spars are fairly beefy and very little material was removed, but I should never have had to remove material in the first place.

An electronic caliper came in handy to identify the "PWA2.3x8mm" screws needed to attach the mounting plates. I had a good idea of which screws were the correct ones and the caliper quickly verified my choice. Waiting to epoxy the bottom wing together as per the manual was a good idea; it made it far easier to route the servo extensions out of their respective holes. Also making things easy were preinstalled strings in the upper wing for threading the servo leads out of their openings.

Assembly and installation of the aileron pushrods, installation of the control horns and joining the halves of the bottom wing with the plywood wing joiner and thirty-minute epoxy complete the wing assemblies minus the strut mounts. The pushrods are serious business, consisting of ball links at either end of steel rods and attached with 2x10mm allen screws, 2mm washers and M2 nuts secured with a dab of CA.

I admit to an error: The Pitts comes with eight black ball links which I mistook for those needed for the ailerons. Nope. These are for the reinforcement rods on the cabane struts which will be installed all the way down on step 19. The white links are the proper ones since the black ones are too short.

Here's the wrong way...

...and the right way:

Next stop: The tail.


Steps 7 and 8 are as conventional as can be, involving the installation of the tail, tail wheel, rudder, stabilizer and elevator.

Step 9 gave me some fits.

The drawing in the manual doesn't clearly show which area of the covering is to be cut away for the elevator servo and yes, I cut away the wrong section. The repair was easy enough thanks to some self adhesive trim material in Cub Yellow (a close but far from exact match) and was later made nearly invisible by the Callie Graphics decals, but I was still frustrated by the experience.

Before I installed the elevator servo, I figured this would be the best time to start applying those decals and the results speak for themselves:

The original wing decals from Callie Graphics were far too large, but after a few emails along with some photos of the real Python for scale reference, Callie made up a new set for the wings and got them right on the money:

The big LHS Electronics LS-50D digital servo was a perfect fit in its proper place, but the supplied 2x45mm pushrod is only just long enough to keep the elevator level with the servo in its suggested location. I later followed the example of a Pitts modeler at who simply installed the servo in the opposite direction; I also installed the single servo arm at that time. Either way, the elevator has a tremendous amount of throw and the LHS servo does the job quickly and quietly.

Rudder Pullwires and Servo

This is a nice, scale touch since the full-scale Python uses a pull-pull system as well.

Of course, there were minor setbacks.

Everything at the tail went fine. Over at the servo end, the LHS servo arms are very thick and only a small bit of the supplied EZ connectors' shaft protruded through as a result. Even if the shaft were longer, the brass cable rods were too large to pass through the connectors themselves.

These shots are of the tail prior to the reversal of the servo installation and the installation of the flying wires:

The solution was at the hobby shop. It consisted of a pair of Sullivan heavy-duty EZ connectors and a new/old stock Revolution machined aluminum helicopter servo arm with Futaba splines. So old was the arm with its shopworn packaging that it not only failed to show up in the shop's inventory, there's virtually nothing online about part number RVO3529. The upside: I got it for far less than the original sale price and it was cheaper than having to buy an entire package of Futaba-splined servo arms.

Either way, common sense came into play. I didn't crimp the tubes or trim the wires until I had the proper tension on both ends, an important point not mentioned in the manual.

The 900mm flying wires for the horizontal and vertical stabilizers were installed the same way once I opened up the holes through which they would pass. They're clearly visible under the covering. Rather than bundle four ends under a single 2.3x12mm washer head screw, I followed the example in the RCUniverse photo showing the flipped-over elevator servo, using two separate screws close to one another. This turned out to be the proper course of action anyway; the parts listing shows two of these screws.

The end result was an incredibly nice looking and functional scale touch.

Landing Gear

Nice and simple, beginning with step 13. Each of the aluminum main struts slide into slots in the fuselage and are bolted down with three 3x12mm allen head screws. Sadly, the scale accurate fiberglass fairings didn't fit; they were too small to slide onto the struts. I may do a bit of surgery with the Dremel before part two. They look too nice not to use.

The wheels, axles and fiberglass wheel pants are installed in step 14. No real drama here short of the need to drill a small pilot hole in each of the wheel pants in order to be able to drive an attaching screw through the holes in the struts.

Step 15 simply instructs the builder to attach the electric motor mount, so I'll be skipping that step on the way to the final wing attachment sequences.

Wing and Strut Attachment

A covered plywood reinforcement panel is provided and is listed in the parts listing, but once more, the manual failed to mention this both in the wing assembly secion and the wing attachment section. No matter. Attaching it was as simple as soaking the panel in order to be able to bend it slightly, cutting away some of the covering on the wing and attaching the panel with thirty-minute epoxy.

Since I now had something which resembled an airplane, I thought I'd snap some photos before removing the wing and proceeding:

Now was the time for installing the wing strut tabs along with the cabane struts on the fuselage and the outer plywood struts between each wing. The tabs lined up much better than I thought they would, but had I installed the cabane strut tabs to the upper wing without first checking the direction they would need to face, I would likely have installed them backwards.

Each of the tabs proved to be a snug test fit, but the fresh epoxy later acted as a lubricant which allowed them to slide into place with out forcing them. It took a lot of the 2x10mm screws and 2mm nuts to temporarily attach the top wing and struts as the epoxy set. Once it did, off came the top wing once again.

I have to say with some relief that I thought I may have accidently epoxied the outer struts to the wings, but I'm pleased to say that my careful application of the epoxy paid off. No improperly glued components.

Installing the cabane strut rods per step 19 using the eight black ball links and installation of the cowling and scale air scoop if the Pitts is being built as an electric complete the basic airframe.

Prior to shooting the beauty shots of the completed model, I decided to attach the top wing with all of the recommended hardware just to see how long it would take and yes, it took a long time. I shaved some time by installing the screws, nuts and bolts in the opposite manner shown in steps 18 and 19 of the wing installation, but it still took about 20 minutes to finish the job.

Both steps show the heads of the screws facing inside rather than outside. Installing the screws with the heads facing out not only sped things up, it made it a lot easier to get to the screws with the screwdriver.

Chalk it up to another bit of weirdness from the manual.

On a final note: There's a lot of extra hardware packaged with the Pitts, primarily washers and a few nylock nuts. There are only enough of the little M2 nuts to complete the model, so unless one has a few extras on hand, I'd advise anyone to be careful and not to lose these little nuts.

Photo and Video Gallery

All I can say is this: I can't wait to get this beauty in the air.

Roland put his electric through some aerobatic manuevers at Southern California's Whittier Narrows. Click here to see the action!

One of the issues which had me concerned was that of the routing of the servo leads for the upper ailerons. They're simply going to be run along the cabane struts and under the canopy. Here's how Nitroplanes did theirs:

Oh, to spend but five minutes rummaging through this room!


Even a basic assembly job where the Nitroplanes Pitts Model 12 Python ARF is concerned is neither for the faint of heart nor an inexperienced builder. The manual will get the job done, but it's best used as a guideline. Common sense and experience are key. When Roland over at Nitroplanes told me twenty hours of assembly time lay ahead, he wasn't kidding. It seemed that every step took an average of two hours.

That's not an indictment of the model, but a simple fact. This is a complex and sophisticated model and one needs to allow adequate assembly time.

Once it was together, the finished product was stunning as evidenced by the photos. This is a beautiful model, one made even more so with the Callie Graphics decals. It looks like a model costing a lot more than what Nitroplanes is asking. That said, I'm giving the Pitts an initial two thumbs up.

The real work lies ahead, namely installing the Valley View RC 20cc engine, the fuel system, the remaining electronics and so forth. Given the low purchase price, someone interested in a Pitts of his or her own can easily apply their airframe budget to high quality accessories. However, this isn't a bolt-on swap and it's going to require some work.

If this model flies half as well as Roland's electric version or gas versions flown by other Pitts owners with videos uploded to YouTube, I can tell you that I'm in for a fast, fun, highly aerobatic ride.

All I can say is: Stay tuned for part two and for a separate review of the Valley View RC engine!

Thanks galore go to Crystal Ng of and their incomparable engineer, Roland, who prefers his last name not be used.

I can always count on Mike Greenshields of Global Hobby Distributors for much of the support equipment reviews like this often require, namely the Airtronics radio system and LHS Electronics servos. High quality components are an email away when I'm faced with a major project like this one. Mike is not only one of the biggest players in the hobby industry, he's also one of the nicest.

Callie Soden of Callie Graphics is, without question, the preeminent supplier of graphic supplies to the hobby and unquestionably one of the nicest people one can hope to work with on projects like this. How nice? Some of the decals in her first shipment were too large for the model. In no time, she whipped up some new ones in the proper scale and got them to me ASAP. That's the same service all hobbyists can expect from Callie.

Tim and the gang at Valley View RC up in Puyallup get some early kudos for supplying a sample of their magnificent house brand engine and of their house brand beechwood propellers. As stated earlier, a lot more is to follow. Angela Haglund does the final crossing and dotting of T's and I's and makes all of these reviews happen for our worldwide audience.

Enjoy your stay here at RCGroups!

Pluses and Minuses

Pluses include

  • Affordably priced
  • Good overall quality with excellent fiberglass work and trim application
  • Good hardware package
  • A wide variety of power options may be used
  • Easily assembled, although not quickly
  • Looks like a million bucks with the Callie Graphics decal set
  • Pull-pull rudder system is a surprisingly nice touch for a model in this price range
  • All parts and components fit well
  • Lots of room under the canopy for fuel tanks, batteries, switches, etc.
  • Low purchase price means more money in one's hobby budget

Minuses include:

  • Errors and omissions in the very basic manual
  • No setup recommendations, or even basic instructions for same
  • Covering quality seems good but not great if my issue with the trim is any indication
  • Removing and installing the wings is tedious at best because of the small hardware
  • Exposed upper wing aileron servo leads
  • No pilot bust
  • No extra M2 nuts and only four extra 2x10mm screws
Last edited by DismayingObservation; Oct 22, 2014 at 07:25 PM..
Thread Tools
Nov 03, 2014, 01:26 PM
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Nice big bipe! Looking forward to part deux!
Latest blog entry:
Nov 03, 2014, 03:54 PM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Thread OP
Thanks, Matt!

I found a 20cc engine mounting kit from Aeroworks which, sad to say, is on back order for several more weeks. It will have the templates, reinforcements, servo tray and such to mount the VVRC engine on this airframe. They'll be sending it as a review sample.

This is gonna be fun!
Nov 03, 2014, 04:00 PM
Super Nice Guy
JC Spohr's Avatar

Nov 03, 2014, 04:04 PM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Thread OP
Originally Posted by JC Spohr

Caught ya just in time, JC! I was just logging off. I'll post a comment here when the engine kit arrives and the write-ups begin. Thanks!
Mar 22, 2015, 06:30 PM
Registered User
Building mine now, you're reviews been big help. I'm going electric which should be less involved, but hopefully produce a nice plane.

Thanks again, subscribed,

Mar 28, 2015, 10:20 AM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Thread OP
Originally Posted by Cadsbury
Building mine now, you're reviews been big help. I'm going electric which should be less involved, but hopefully produce a nice plane.

Thanks again, subscribed,

You bet, Chris.

Nitroplanes' video shows the model being flown as an electric and all of the parts necessary to mount a motor are included. And yes, electric is a lot less involved.

As of right now, the engine is in place and I've solved the issues of the throttle servo location and choke. The spaces in the firewall are the perfect size for standard servos.

I've not only installed the throttle servo in that location, but a choke servo as well. I rigged a temporary pushrod (a little too short for regular use), connected the servo to the throttle channel and it works perfectly. I'll be bending some permanent pushrods this week. I'm expecting some receiver and ignition batteries as well and once they arrive, I'll be in the home stretch.

This has been a real "learn as you go" experience since this is by no means a bolt-in swap. I'd love to know how your electric turns out! I'll pass the info to Nitroplanes.
Jun 02, 2015, 05:52 PM
Registered User

Working on My Pitts 12

I wish I had found your build review before I started my assembly but things are pretty good. As for the wing tabs you are right that they need to be spot on before any epoxy is applied. I got them all adjusted and then used 30 minute epoxy and now when I put the wings together everything just "drops in". I used 4 Hitec Mighty Minis in the wings and old reliable Futaba 3004's for the rudder and elevator.

I sent an email to the Callie Graphics folks and hope I can get that set. The plane while sharp does indeed look unfinished without the decals.

Right now I am at an impasse. I have a nice Tacon 60 which is a very powerful motor and I think the plane would fly fine with it on a 6s 5000. I also have the Tacon 110 and this would mean a 8S set up and a huge prop. And then there is gas.

What do you recommend as far as the electric choice? However, I am getting itchy to strap on a 20 CC gasser.

Anyway, your Part 1 looks great and I look forward to Part 2.
Last edited by mrRich50; Jun 02, 2015 at 05:57 PM. Reason: typo and addition
Jun 06, 2015, 10:38 PM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Thread OP
Originally Posted by mrRich50
I wish I had found your build review before I started my assembly but things are pretty good. As for the wing tabs you are right that they need to be spot on before any epoxy is applied. I got them all adjusted and then used 30 minute epoxy and now when I put the wings together everything just "drops in". I used 4 Hitec Mighty Minis in the wings and old reliable Futaba 3004's for the rudder and elevator.

I sent an email to the Callie Graphics folks and hope I can get that set. The plane while sharp does indeed look unfinished without the decals.

Right now I am at an impasse. I have a nice Tacon 60 which is a very powerful motor and I think the plane would fly fine with it on a 6s 5000. I also have the Tacon 110 and this would mean a 8S set up and a huge prop. And then there is gas.

What do you recommend as far as the electric choice? However, I am getting itchy to strap on a 20 CC gasser.

Anyway, your Part 1 looks great and I look forward to Part 2.
Thanks, Rich!

I wanted to do an electric setup, but chief engineer Roland over at Nitroplanes already did his as an electric and NP wanted to showcase the airframe as a gasser.

I'd give them a call or shoot over an email during the week.

Here are links to their videos:

Large Scale Pitts 12 Bi-Plane (7 min 5 sec)

Large Scale Pitts with Aerobatic Flying (4 min 42 sec)

I'd run into no end of problems getting hold of components and such, but I now have everything except for a few small hobby shop items and I am determined to have it completed inside of about a week. That Valley View RC engine is a thing of beauty!
Oct 30, 2015, 01:31 PM
Pronoun trouble...
DismayingObservation's Avatar
Thread OP
Part two has gone live and yup, this plane is a winner! I love it!

PS: Sorry it took longer than the week I'd hoped for in my last comment, but it was worth the wait.
Mar 02, 2017, 12:57 PM
You're killin' me Smalls
BrownEyedFool's Avatar
Think this may still be available other vendors, looks to be the Flymodel
May 03, 2017, 10:42 AM
Registered User

Nitro Planes People are awful

I asked them for a replacement cowling. They asked for all of the original order info as if to verify the purchase. THEN they send me the wrong COWLING . When asked how this could be they responded with a take it or leave it attitude. What a bunch of a$$holes.
Jul 26, 2021, 10:45 PM
Registered User

Nitroplanes Pitts 12 help SOS

I bought one of these Nitroplanes Super Pitts Model 12. After two tours in Iraqi and a divorce I finally got a chance to finish the build on this beautiful plane (Black and yellow) The problem is the manual I have is not complete and I don't have the location of the cg. Does anybody still have one of these or a copy of the manual. I would be forever indebted to you.

Quick Reply

Thread Tools