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'Maverick' roadable aircraft on a mission
By Dana Heimos
Glancing at its spec sheet you'd think it was a high-performance compact sports car: zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds, a Subaru EJ22 engine, a CVT belt-drive transmission, and less than 1,000 pounds total weight. And while you'd be mostly correct, you'd also be shortchanging the vehicle for what it's fully capable of achieving: transitioning from a road vehicle to an airborne craft in just a few minutes-and only 300 feet of terra firma.
The Maverick, developed by I-TEC (Indigenous People's Technology and Education Center), is a road-legal powered parachute designed to be accessible by even low-time pilots, and for good reason. The nonprofit organization aims to teach people living in remote areas of the world, where transportation via roadways is often a major concern, how to take care of their own medical needs.
"The continent of Africa is losing about 35,000 kilometers of roads every year due to deterioration and the lack of funding to maintain them," said Steve Saint, founder of I-TEC. "The Maverick's unique maneuverability allows missionary pilots to access these remote areas and provide health care to the native people."
Part of that mission includes teaching people who have never flown a powered parachute how to operate the flying car. Fortunately, the Maverick's straightforward operability has proven successful. "We can transition sport pilots in the Maverick in about 12 hours," said I-TEC engineer Jonathan Nelson. "We designed (the Maverick) with the idea that if you can drive a car, you can operate it (the aircraft).
Flight preparation from its ground configuration is quick and simple. The operator flips a switch that shifts the power of the 140-hp Subaru EJ22 from rear-wheel drive to a five-blade Powerfin prop. A telescoping mast, which folds down and remains relatively obscure while driving, is deployed vertically, which then acts as a wing spar for the chute allowing the craft to maintain an even airspeed (40 mph) during takeoffs and landings.
Once in the air, the fly-by-wire system allows the pilot to control direction with a simple turn of the steering wheel. A dual-functioning Garmin Aera 500 GPS is mounted on the dash and provides pilots with both ground and aerial navigation.
Fabric covering and a rugged chromoly tube frame bring the Maverick to 987 pounds empty weight. That cushion, as well as the ability to fold down the two back seats, gives the Maverick a 330-pound useful load-an essential trait for an aircraft designed to transport medical equipment and supplies to remote regions around the world.
On the ground, the Maverick is capable of speeds in excess of 90 mph, and the continuously variable transmission coupled with its lightweight frame give it phenomenal acceleration. The unit can also be fitted with regular and off-road tires, as well as skis or floats.
I-TEC is looking to introduce the Maverick to the general public before selling units to missionary pilots and foreign governments. "We need to first build the Maverick in high enough quantities in a commercial market so we can bring the building costs down for the people on the frontier," Saint said. The Maverick is licensed by the DOT for ground travel, and it operates in the experimental category for flight. I-TEC is seeking FAA certification in the light-sport aircraft category.
Watch The Maverick in action.