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SCC Aviation Maintenance Program Receives Donation from Tennessee Aviation Enthusiasts


donated airplane
Above: The Zenith 701 STOL (short take-off and landing) light sport aircraft was recently donated to the Somerset Community College Aviation Maintenance Technology Program.
Above: Richard Brantley, right, and Calvin Hopper, left, built the aircraft which they donated to the Somerset Community College Aviation Maintenance Technology Program. The Zenith 701 STOL is approved for flight by the Federal Aviation Administration and will be used by the colleges program in various classes.

Richard Brantley, a retired urologist, pilot, veteran and self-proclaimed army brat, grew up loving planes and spent a good majority of his life flying them. Now, his passion for planes will be passed on to students in the Somerset Community College (SCC) Aviation Maintenance Program thanks to the donation of a Zenith 701 plane he and Calvin Hopper made to the college.

Brantley, who resides in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, said his father was in the United States Air Force and from a young age, he wanted to be a pilot

My plan all along was to go to West Point, said Brantley.

When he was a kid, however, Brantley had a fishing accident that caused him to lose an eye and he soon found out that flying for the army was no longer a possibility. That didn't deter him from fulfilling his dream, though.

In high school, I saw an advertisement for flight training. I saved my money from delivering papers in order to take the flight test, but I didn't qualify due to only having one eye, Brantley said.

Nevertheless, Brantley wasn't going to give up. He read and studied Wiley Post, the one-eyed, famed pilot who was the first to fly around the world alone in 1931, and decided to continue with his plan to fly.

I wrote to the Federal boys and told them I wanted to fly. A few weeks later an examiner from Chicago came down to administer the test and I passed, said Brantley.

When it came time to attend college, Brantley briefly put his passion on hold, and received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Alabama. He then entered the U.S. Army as part of the Vietnam draft and was assigned to Alaska as a surgeon, spending three years there. While in Alaska, Brantley began flying again, became President of the Fort Wainwright Army Flying Club, and the bug never left. He encouraged his wife and sons to successfully get their pilots licenses as well.

After Brantley's retirement, an engineer friend, Calvin Hopper, talked to him about the two of them building a plane. The pair set off on building their dream plane, appropriately named 241 Zulu. This two-day a week labor of love took eight years, more time than they both anticipated, and culminated in the Zenith 701 STOL (short take-off and landing) light sport aircraft. They got it certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as airworthy last year.

Subsequently, Brantley, now age 75, had a car wreck caused by an unexplained medical condition and decided to give up the notion of ever safely flying the plane. His friend Calvin had also aged eight years in the process and both of them thought it best to call it quits. Suddenly, they were left with an airplane they were both fearful of flying.

Instead of selling the aircraft they built, Brantley and Hopper decided to donate it to an aviation program. Luckily for SCC, Bert Loupe, the airport manager in Campbell County, Tennessee, knew of the SCC Aviation Maintenance Technology program and its outstanding reputation. He recommended gifting the airplane to the college, and after contacting the program director, the donation was arranged.

In general, I feel like aviation has slipped, said Brantley. Now that the economy is coming back, I think aviation as a profession and a hobby will also return. Current aviation mechanics, as well as pilots, are aging and nearing retirement. We need young blood, passionate about careers in aviation, and we hope that 241 Zulu will assist in their education.

David Phelps, SCC Aviation Maintenance Technology Associate Professor, said he was grateful for the donation, which has a fair market value of nearly $40,000. Once the plane arrived at SCC, students assembled it, worked on wiring and got the plane ready to run. Next semester, it will get a new paint job during the colleges finishing class. It will also be used in engine class and for taxiing and ground handling.

This plane has every log book and was ready to go when we got it, said Phelps. It is 100 percent functional and is one of the nicest donations ever to come to our program.

In addition to being an associate professor, Phelps also holds certification as an airframe power plant mechanic, FAA inspection authorization and is a designated FAA mechanic examiner.

We are very grateful to Mr. Brantley and Mr. Hopper for their donation, said Phelps. It will certainly make a difference for our students for many years to come.

To find out more about the Aviation Maintenance Technology program at SCC, contact David Deaton, Program Coordinator, at (606) 451-6772 or