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A Maverick ideaFlying car prototype has midstate connections

By , - Last modified: March 15, 2011 at 12:10 PM

The car’s interior is cozy and simple with a driver’s seat, steering wheel, dashboard-mounted global positioning system and two pedals on the floor.

But any similarity with most cars ends at the small blue switch to the right of the steering wheel. It’s labeled “Fly.”

Meet the Maverick — a prototype that, although it might seem straight out of “The Jetsons,” stands to benefit a group of midstate parts-makers helping to build the flying car.

Half of the Maverick’s drive components are slated to come from the Keystone state.

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Smoketown Airport owner Marlin Horst, second from left, discusses the Maverick flying car with I-Tec engineer Jonathan Nelson, Jeff Shirk of Lancaster County-based Total Outsourcing Solutions and I-Tec production manager Steve Buer in a hangar at the East Lampeter Township, Lancaster County airport. Photo/Amy Spangler
The Maverick is the brainchild of Steve Saint, founder of Dunnellon, Fla.-based I-Tec, which stands for Indigenous People’s Technology and Education Center.

The car grew out of the Saint family’s experiences as missionaries in the Amazon River basin, which also were chronicled in the documentary “Beyond the Gates of Splendor” and the book and movie “End of the Spear.”

Having the Maverick can shorten a journey in the trackless wilderness from days to hours, said Jamie Saint, Steve’s son and director of Life University, an I-Tec subsidiary.

Outside of the jungle the Maverick is street-legal and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration as a powered parachute; to fly it the pilot must have a sport pilot license.

The Maverick is powered by a 170- or 200-horse-power Subaru gasoline engine that feeds either the back-mounted propeller or the automotive drive train, Saint said.

The steering wheel connects to cords that move both the wheels and the fabric ram-air wing, which gets zipped into a flap on the roof when not in use. The vehicle, which resembles a dune buggy, can reach 40 mph in the air and at least 96 mph on the ground.

“If you know how to drive a car, you know how to fly this,” Saint said.

The Maverick sells for $84,000; about 10 orders have come in already, Saint said. He said it should be on the market in time for the 2011 AirVenture Oshkosh, a massive fly-in and aviation showcase that this year is at the end of July.

The flying car has gotten national attention: Fox News aired a segment featuring the vehicle on Feb. 20, and Popular Mechanics magazine gave the Maverick a 2009 Breakthrough Award as one of the 10 “most brilliant innovations” that year.

The Maverick visited Lancaster as part of Missions Fest Lancaster, an event held Feb. 18-20 at the Lancaster County Convention Center.

Smoketown Airport owner Marlin Horst is a member of I-Tec’s board, and Missions Fest was a showcase for the project, as well as an opportunity to find local suppliers to help build the Maverick, he said.

Horst brought in Jeff Shirk of Akron-based Total Outsource Solutions, which matches manufacturers and suppliers to projects.

“It’s been interesting,” Shirk said. “A lot of people, when you tell them (your inquiry is) for a flying car, they look at you like you’re nuts.”

But once businesses get an in-person look at the Maverick, they get excited about it and sign on, he said.

“If (the market for this) takes off, (the financial impact) could be substantial,” he said.

Before production starts in earnest, the manufacturers will make parts for three prototypes, then send them to Florida for assembly, he said.

One of the companies Shirk brought in was Earl Township-based Pendu Manufacturing Inc.

Pendu does a lot of custom manufacturing in addition to standard and replacement parts, its president, Marlin Hurst said.

“We’re looking for any work we can get,” Hurst said.

Some other Pennsylvania companies that have agreed to make components are Librandi’s Plating in Middletown and Tower City’s Valley Precision Tool Inc., Shirk said.

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