The Maverick in flight

As the “Maverick” traveled from Florida to Wisconsin, people stopped its driver – or pilot, as the case may be – to ask about the odd vehicle, something they could hardly believe, something right out of the movie “Back to the Future 2”: for the Maverick … is a flying car.

And when many of the awed spectators talked with the Maverick’s driver and creator, they were doubly surprised to learn he is none other than Steve Saint, son of Nate Saint, the now-famous missionary who was killed in 1956 attempting to reach the remote Waodani tribe of Ecuador.

Inspired by his father’s sacrifice and his own unique upbringing, Steve Saint envisioned the need for vehicles that could go where traditional cars and airplanes could not, to serve the needs of people in some of the earth’s most remote locations.

“This machine was designed to go places no other single vehicle has ever gone,” Steve Saint writes in an article detailing the Maverick’s first flight, “drive highway speeds on highways, transform automatically into an ATV when the roads are primitive and rough, float when the bridge is out or the river has flooded its banks and inundated the roads – and fly when it is impractical to drive or float. … One small leap for man, a giant step for mankind living beyond roads.”

Read Steve Saint’s incredible true story of peril and redemption in the Amazon in “The End of the Spear”

Steve Saint says the Maverick – which can do 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds on the ground, is certified by the Federal Aviation Association for flights up to 10,000 feet in altitude and can even be equipped with pontoons to traverse water – can be used for border patrol, search-and-rescue operations or even flying to dodge the traffic on your way “to Wal-Mart.”

But the primary purpose, he says, “is in places where there are no doctors, there are no nurses, there’s no hospital.” His eventual plan is to sell the Maverick in the commercial market in order to, in turn, make it affordable for humanitarian and missions operations.

Saint drove the Maverick from Dunnellon, Fla., to Oshkosh, Wis. – a trip of roughly 1,400 miles – to demonstrate the practical use of the car not just in the air, but also on the highway.

Video of his journey can be seen below:

Saint drove to Oshkosh to participate in the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual AirVenture, where hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts gather each summer in the nation’s largest private air show.

There he explained to the curious that the Maverick stores its parachute-like wing folded atop the cab and the mast that connects the car to wing underneath the Maverick’s carriage. When assembled, all the pilot needs to do is accelerate to 40 mph, and the Maverick lifts off. The controls in air are simply the same steering wheel and foot pedals used on the ground.

“Anybody who can drive an automatic transmission car can fly it,” Saint says.

The Maverick is fueled by a 170-hp Subaru engine that gets about 25 mpg on the highway, can reportedly hit 60 mph in under four seconds and has a top road speed exceeding 95 mph. It needs about 150 feet of space to get airborne or land, but once in the sky, can travel at 40 mph for an estimated 2.5 hours.

Another video of the Maverick, showing off the car’s off-road capacities as well as its takeoff, can be seen below:

Steve Saint was born in Ecuador, five years before his father flew with Jim Elliot and three other missionaries to attempt to make peaceful contact with the Amazon Jungle’s Waodani tribe, only to be killed by the natives they sought to reach.

Steve Saint and his wife, Ginny

By the time he was 10, Steve’s aunt, Rachel Saint, and Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth, had made peace with the Waodani, even inviting Steve to live with the Waodani for several years. When he was 14, he was baptized in the Curaray River by two of the same men who had killed his father, but had since become Christians.

After returning to Ecuador following Rachel Saint’s death in 1994, Steve resumed working with the Waodani, eventually transitioning into a partnership aimed at helping the indigenous tribe learn to be self-sufficient and, indeed, even a sender of missionaries into other regions of the jungle.

Saint wrote about his life with the Waodani in the book “The End of the Spear,” which was also made into a motion picture.

The Maverick is produced by Saint’s Indigenous People’s Technology and Education Center, or I-TEC, which focuses on enabling indigenous churches to overcome the technological and educational hurdles that stand in the way of independent ministry.

“One of the great barriers that has prevented indigenous churches from growing to maturity is their continuing dependence on the welfare of outsiders,” the organization states on its website. “A native church that relies on the leadership, technology and financial support of foreign missionaries rarely can stand on its own when that support is withdrawn. We are convinced from the Scriptures, however, that the goal of the Great Commission is to establish churches that are self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating.”

To that end, I-TEC has invented a number of creative projects, including portable, 33-pound dental system already at use in the Amazon Jungle and soon in Timbuktu in Africa, that enable remote and indigenous tribes to care for needs in hard-to-reach areas.

I-TEC has done similar work in portable medical and vision services, and soon, the group says, a group of people first reached by a missionary pilot 40 years ago will support their own missionary pilot. The Maverick is merely the next step in I-TEC’s ongoing mission.

Saint explains that the Waodani have nicknamed the Maverick the “Wood-bee” after a native instrument that sounds like the propeller of a plane.

“Thank you, Waodani, for having the courage to say, ‘If we are going to help our own people, we need to learn the Wood-Bee thing (flying),'” Saint writes. “Stay tuned. There are mountains to fly over and rivers to cross ahead. But now we can officially call the Maverick a true ‘flying car.'”

The organization anticipates the first Mavericks will go on sale in summer of 2011 with a base price of approximately $80,000.

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