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Steve Buer describes the Maverick, which draws attention from passersby with its 75-inch belt-driven propeller on the rear and a deployable parachute on the roof. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)

The ultimate in all-terrain and air vehicle

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Emily Buer and Joshua Elliott have an important decision to make following their wedding ceremony this afternoon: Do they want to arrive at their reception via air or ground?

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When wedding transportation is a Maverick, the answer could be either.

The 15-foot-long flying car is capable of speeds upward of 90 miles per hour and can fly at heights of 10,000 feet.

The Maverick will be chauffeured by Steve Buer, father of the bride and one of the Maverick's original developers. The couple will arrive at their wedding reception in the only known flying car in the U.S. They just may not have room to stretch their legs. "Don't think Buick," said Buer of the car's dune-buggy chassis.

Buer and the Maverick arrived in Willmar earlier this week following a nearly 1,500-mile trek from home in Dunnellon, Fla.

Prior to its arrival in Willmar, Buer and his team of fellow Maverick developers took a four-day pit stop in Oshkosh, Wis., for the Airventure Oshkosh event, one of the largest air shows in the world.

Buer and his team were unable to fly the Maverick in or to the Wisconsin air show due to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations which require a minimum of 40 hours of airtime at a home airport.

Switching to flying mode requires little more than activating the car's mast deployment system. Once the dual drive system has been switched to flying mode and the mast deployment system has been activated, the Maverick must reach a minimum speed of 40 miles per hour to clear for takeoff. Once airborne, the Maverick can cruise at speeds of 40 miles her hour.

Though grounded at the air show, the Maverick hardly needs to be airborne to draw attention from passersby with its 75-inch belt-driven propeller on the rear and a deployable parachute on the roof.

Buer said he and his team grew used to people rolling down car windows to snap photos of the Maverick as they traveled highways and interstates from Florida to Wisconsin and Minnesota.

"At one point along the interstate we had cameras flashing on both sides of the Maverick," Buer said. "From behind it looked like an accident scene with all the flashes."

Today the Maverick is responsible for transporting Buer's daughter and son-in-law to and from wedding festivities -- a modest task to perform compared to the flying all-terrain vehicle's intended purpose.

According to Buer, the concept of the Maverick was the vision of missionary Steve Saint, founder of i-tec -- Indigenous People's Technology and Education Center -- in Dunnellon, Fla.

Saint saw the need for an all-terrain flying vehicle after spending much of his life living as a missionary among the indigenous Waodani tribes in Ecuador's Amazon.

Saint's own father, Missionary Aviation Fellowship pilot Nate Saint, was killed in Ecuador in 1956 by a tribesman when Saint was only 5 years old, yet Saint continued to spend summers carrying out missionary work.

"He was able to see the needs of people from their perspective," Buer said.

During interviews, Saint has said that he visualized an affordable and reliable way in and out of Ecuador's most inaccessible areas.

Buer's goal is to one day put indigenous people behind the wheel of a Maverick.

"We would teach them to drive, fly and maintain it within a week," Buer said.

In addition to the Maverick, i-tec has reinvented missionary tools, including a portable dentist chair which fits into a 35-pound backpack.

Buer said the Maverick is i-tec's most ambitious project. The current model is the team's fourth prototype.

The team hopes to mass produce the Maverick within the next couple years. Currently, the flying car's price tag reads approximately $80,000. Buer hopes the profits generated from the Maverick could be used to subsidize the cost for indigenous people in South America and Africa.

Today the Maverick won't be hauling medical equipment to remote areas of the Amazon jungle; it will cruise through Willmar with two newlyweds in tow. The couple should be distinguishable: look for "just married" scrawled across the rear propeller blade.

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