Talking Rock’s Byers ‘Den’
Coleman hopes to finish
building his airplane
sometime this year


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.

An experienced engineer, Den Coleman really enjoys the assembly of the plane and its impressive engine.

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.”

Den stands with one of his many admired paintings done by a good friend in Vietnam.

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.

The airplane itself weighs only 800 pounds and has a maximum capacity of 1,320 pounds, uses high octane gasoline, and must fly within the required limits of altitude.

Den is also very proud of all the honors and awards he has received throughout the years based on his extensive tenure in the military and displays them proudly on his walls.

He works approximately four hours a day to complete his goal of building the airplane and anxiously awaits the day he will accomplish his dream and take it into the wild blue yonder!

Den is also proud of the many certificates he has received while serving in the Army, displayed on his downstairs walls.

While his wife Sally may not be flying by his side she is not deterring him of bringing his dream to life and supports him all the way.

When I asked why he decided to build his own airplane, Den said with a smile: “It was a Walter Mitty dream, an itch that needed to be scratched!”

I am confident that this man will accomplish his dream and will be sailing off into the wild blue yonder with a big smile on his face knowing that he has finally done what he has set out to do!