We’ve certainly seen some high-tech wonders over the past week at AirVenture 2010, but sometimes it’s the relatively low-tech aircraft that are the most inspiring. That’s certainly the case with the Maverick, a flying car from Florida’s I-TEC (Indigenous People's Technology and Education Center). The Maverick could fairly accurately be described as a combination dune buggy and powered parachute, not unlike the Parajet Skycar. While I-TEC initially plans on raising funds by selling Mavericks to recreational users, they ultimately hope to put the vehicles to use in impoverished African nations, where missionary pilots can use them to deliver medical supplies.
As a car alone, the vehicle’s performance is pretty impressive. Its 140 hp, fuel-injected, 16-valve Subaru EJ22 engine sends it from 0 to 60mph in 3.9 seconds, it has a top speed of 90 mph (145 km/h), and the whole rig weighs less than 1,000 pounds (454 kg).
When it’s time to fly, the Maverick’s central telescopic mast raises and acts as a wing spar for its chute, properly known as a ram-air wing. The flip of a switch diverts engine power from the rear wheels to the rear-mounted five-blade propeller, which propels the car across the ground, up to its take-off speed of 40mph (64km/h). Thanks to its ram-air wing design, the Maverick can take flight in only 300 feet (91 meters).
Once in the air, the vehicle’s electronic fly-by-wire system allows the pilot to steer it with the steering wheel, just like they would on the ground. According to I-TEC, existing sport pilots can learn to fly the Maverick within 12 hours. A dash-mounted Garmin GPS allows for both aerial and ground-based navigation. In flight mode, it has a maximum payload of 330 pounds (150 kg).
Work began on the first version of the Maverick in 2008. It was completely rebuilt this Spring, however, with current version officially known as the Maverick Sport. It is licensed by the US Department of Transportation for ground travel, and is presently classified by the FAA as an experimental aircraft - I-TEC is trying to get it into the light-sport category.
The company claims that It should be available for purchase within a year, with deployment in Africa to follow.