Talking Rock’s Byers ‘Den’ Coleman hopes to finish building his airplane sometime this year
By PAM GUENTHER
Byers Coleman, also known as “Den,” is very much a military man, although now retired.
He lives a pretty relaxed, though very active life in the small town of Talking Rock with his wife of nearly 57 years and their two cats.
While the couple keeps pretty busy most of the time, Den often can be found enjoying much of his leisure time in his downstairs workshop working on his pet project, building his own airplane.
That’s not surprising since Den has always loved flying and earned his pilot’s license in 1978 soon after the Vietnam War ended, where he had served proudly as a lieutenant colonel. He so loved the Army that he made it his career and spent 24 active years and another six years in the Army Reserve.
A 1965 graduate of Penn State with a Political Science degree, Den served in the ROTC and later received his Management Engineering degree from George Washington University.
Den says he was always involved in the military life even graduating from high school in Okinawa where his dad was stationed in the war. You could pretty much say the military was in his family’s blood, and even his son-in-law is a recently retired colonel from active duty.
Den himself served two tours in Vietnam, first tour ending in 1967, then later a second term where he went back in 1973. Den then remained behind after the war ended to service Air Force planes at Plieku Airfield – where he truly got his love for flying. After that he was stationed in Kuwait where he spent two years managing a satellite-based tracking system.
Den has always loved the military life and is the proud father of two daughters, one who also has served in the Army Reserves, and the proud grandfather of a grandson now following in his dad’s and grandfather’s footsteps having graduated from the Airborne Academy and currently serving as a co-pilot for a C-17 airplane.
Den was also an instructor at a transportation school and stayed active in the National Guard while in Pennsylvania. He was also involved with the Forces Command unit until he finally retired at Fort McPherson in Georgia in 1989. Later he went to work for the American Red Cross, then a few years later for another company called Mayzo that made industrial chemicals.
Currently he is enjoying his retirement keeping busy with his favorite project of building his own light aircraft, a Zenith 650, which you might say is a pretty elaborate airplane kit!
Den got his private pilot’s license when he was in his 30s and began flying with a flying club. From there he was bound and determined to own his own light aircraft and so many years later he began building one in his basement starting in 2017.
He hopes to have it completed in 2022 and then have it moved to an airplane hangar in Blue Ridge where he can complete the necessary steps of getting the license for a “light sport aircraft.”
He explained that he would then have to complete the 40 hours of the required test period before being approved by the FAA, allowing him also to carry a passenger for the two-seater aircraft.