Is Third Aircraft
He's Built From Kit
Or Has Restored
BY KEN LITTLE
A colorful biplane seen cruising the skies over Greene County is owned and piloted by 19-year-old Dillon Hopson.
The aviation-minded Greeneville High School graduate recently refurbished the plane and added it to his growing collection of airworthy classics.
The Fisher Celebrity is the third aircraft Hopson has either built from a kit or restored to flying condition. It first flew last month.
"I got it after the original owner flew it 40-some hours and flipped it over in a landing accident. The plane is pretty much new and is painted like a classic from the 1930s and 1940s," Hopson said.
The distinctive biplane has a blue body and tail, a red nose and a red stripe down the body. Its lower wing has red-and-white striping.
"The technology on the plane is as simple as it would have been in the '30s or '40s," Hopson said. "It is a two-(seat) plane as long as the person up front is flexible to get in and out."
Hopson, of Midway, is a licensed pilot with 200-plus flying hours to his credit. He works as a lineman at Greeneville Aviation Services and keeps his airplanes in a hangar there.
Earlier this year, the young flying enthusiast built a dual-wing "Fisher Youngster" from a kit.
That airplane resembles a World War I fighter aircraft. He has also restored a 1957 four-seat Cessna 172.
Hopson said the Fisher Celebrity is powered by a 65-horsepower Continental aircraft engine with a wooden Culver propeller.
The airplane uses just 4.5 gallons per hour and can run on 83-to-93 octane car gas with no ethanol, or 100 octane aviation fuel "without changing the engine timing."
Hopson said the wings and tail of the Fisher Celebrity are wood, with stainless-steel cable flying wires, a welded-steel square tube fuselage, a Fiberglas engine cowling, and a spring aluminum landing gear.
CRUISES AT 75
The aircraft cruises at about 75 mph "and is capable of gentle loops, rolls, stalls, and steep turns," Hopson said.
"It is strong enough to take positive 4Gs and negative 2.5Gs. One G is (when) we are standing or sitting on the ground. Two Gs would make you feel twice your normal weight," he said.
The airplane is covered with aircraft polyfiber comprised of a heat-shrinkable polyester that "is sewn around the wood ribs in the wings and tail like the (Fisher) Youngster and painted with a flexible and durable gloss paint used for aircraft," Hopson said.
Like the other aircraft he has rebuilt, the Fisher Celebrity has been personalized by Hopson.
Its tail number is N494DZ. All civilian aircraft tail numbers in the U.S. start with the letter N.
"I made and reserved that number because it is (my) fourth plane, I was born in '94, and DZ is my and my friend's first initial," he said.
Hopson and his friend, Zach Crawford, picked up the Fisher Celebrity in South Carolina in July.
'KEEP IT SIMPLE'
In many ways, Hopson is reminiscent of an aviator from a bygone era. He enjoys working with his hands and not computers.
"When I build the planes, I think, 'Keep it simple, think tractor, not space shuttle,'" he said.
In addition to the Fisher Youngster and Cessna 172, Hopson also has a "Monty" single-engine, fixed-wing experimental aircraft built and designed by Monte Warne, who owns Boss Hoss Motorcycles, in Dyersburg.
"He gave the plane to me as a gift. A useful gift," Hopson said.
Hopson has about four hours' flying time in the Fisher Celebrity biplane.
"I am almost finished making final adjustments," he said. "The Celebrity will be named 'The Dreamer' and it has the Air Force J.R.O.T.C. shield on it because I was in the program at Greeneville High for four years and got my first plane ride on a field trip with the class when I was a freshman in high school.
"I was hooked on aviation and flying from then on," he said.
Hopson friend and fellow pilot Bob Sykes is impressed with the skill shown by Hopson, and his dedication to his hobby.
"This 19-year-old amazes me. He now owns four airplanes," Sykes said in an email.
Hopson is appreciative to all those who lent a helping hand on the project, and helped nuture his love of flying.
They include Crawford, Sykes, Ed Athey, Siera Childress, Bill Powley, Greeneville Aviation, Luke Lee, Dewayne Keener, Jerry Black and Cecil Hopson.