A Brief History of the
Citabria Pro

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    Designed specifically for sportsman aerobatic competition, the Citabria Pro was built by Champion Aircraft. The Pro utilized the basic lower fuselage and empennage (tail) of the Champion Citabria model 7KCAB, while topside everything else was new. The Citabria Pro first flew on August 2, 1968, and was later featured in the November 1968 issue of Air Progress. Able to maintain unlimited inverted flight and rated for 6 G's positive and 5 G's negative (records indicate the final stress analysis and testing were never completed), for it's day, the Pro was classed as an "unlimited" aerobatic aircraft, and was intended to be marketed to the the aerobatic competitor in the sportsman class. Although the prototype appears to be configured as a single seater, it was equipped with a forward cockpit. However, the forward cockpit was initially covered over and lacked a windscreen. The Air Progress article states that the prototype was originally equipped with a 200hp Lycoming IO-360 engine, however the engine is actually an IO-360-SPL, a one-off Lycoming special placarded at 180hp (not 200hp). The Air Progress article also indicates that the Pro is 27 feet long, however measurements of the actual aircraft show it to be within a few inches of a standard Citabria or Decathlon. The current owner observes that wheel landings are preferable with the Pro.

    Shortly after the completion of the prototype, Bellanca Aircraft purchased Champion Aircraft and plans for production of the Pro were cancelled. It was assumed that the open cockpit design might have had limited success. After the program's termination, development started on the Decathlon, by adapting the semi-symmetrical aerobatic wing of the Pro to the enclosed cockpit fuselage of the Citabria. This would make the Decathlon a more versatile aircraft that would appeal to more buyers. While the Air Progress indicates that the Pro was originally designated model 8KCAB, other Bellanca documents refer to the aircraft as model 9KCAB. Since the Decathlon was designated model 8KCAB, it is likely the Pro was meant to be designated 9KCAB from the start. By 1970, the factory had reconfigured the Pro by opening up the forward cockpit and replacing the single panel curved windscreen with a pair of three panel flat windscreens. In late 1970, a Citabria dealer in Tennessee talked the factory into letting him use the aircraft for demonstration/exhibition flights. The Pro was flown from the factory in Wisconsin to Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington Tennessee during the winter of 1970-71. In March of 1971 the factory where the prototype was built burned to the ground and the plans and specifications for the plane were lost. The prototype escaped the fire as it was in Arlington. The plane remained in Arlington until it's provisional certificate ran out in 1972 and the FAA was not keen to issue a new certificate due to the prototype nature of the aircraft.

    In 1972 the Bellanca Aircraft Co. loaned the Pro to the Experimental Aircraft Association for long term display in the EAA Air Education Museum (now known as the EAA AirVenture Museum). In 1973, the Bellanca board of directors voted to permanently donate the aircraft to the EAA. During it's time with the EAA, the Pro was completely disassembled and rebuilt in their outstanding facility, even through the airframe had only a few 100 hours on it. At some time prior to December of 1974 the Pro was photographed in an EAA owned hangar in Burlington, Wisconsin. Starting in 1976 and through 1977 the Pro was used by the EAA for it's auto fuel testing program. The Pro was the first such test aircraft.

    The Pro was sold by the EAA at auction in August of 1982, where it was purchased by an individual from Texas. In 1986 the Pro was purchased by a member of the Bellanca Champion Club who remains the current owner. The Pro was flown regularly until 1997, and is currently finishing up an extensive improvement and restoration by its owner, taking nearly 8 years.

    I would like to thank the Bellanca Champion Club, the EAA AirVenture Museum, and Fuel Fresh Inc. for helping make this history as accurate as possible.

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Radio Controlled Citabria Pro model kit

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Copyright © 2004-2011 Joel Dirnberger. All rights reserved. - Email: joel@joeld.net
This page last updated: 15 June 2011