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Orange City’s Angel Aircraft Corporation Is on a Mission

Story and photos by Mike Whye

From his seat several hundred feet in the air, Carl Mortenson scanned the terrain below. Landing strips chopped out of dense jungle in this southern Peru region were up to 200 miles apart, and Mortenson couldn’t afford to miss an opening.

During his challenging flights to deliver Bibles and supplies to missionaries in the late 1950s, he pondered the reassurance an extra engine could provide.

“There were times you could fly for an hour and 45 minutes without seeing a clearing in the jungle,” recalls Mortenson, now of Orange City, where his flying experiences landed him at a drafting table on which he’s been inventing a better plane since the 1960s.

Called the Angel, his twin-engine aircraft, designed around qualities needed when flying in remote areas, can practically leap into the air and land in very short distances.

At its optimum, Angel uses only 658 feet to take off and only 568 feet to land.

The best that any similar-size plane can manage is, respectively, 1,525 and 1,825 feet.

Angel can hustle up to just over 200 mph, but when flown at only 150 mph, the plane can travel 1,780 miles — a distance from Des Moines to Washington, D.C., and back — without refueling.

With its wide, low-pressure tires and heavy-duty brakes, Angel can also use unpaved airfields freshly hacked out of the jungle.

Although its blueprint first formed in Mortenson’s mind somewhere over South America, Angel’s genesis really began in 1943 when Mortenson was 11 and lying on a sickbed in Yorkville, Illinois, with a burst appendix.

“I was just about dead,” he remembers, sitting in a design room at the Orange City plant. “I was sick for nine months and had lots of operations.”

Mortenson believes he was spared for a reason, and he subsequently devoted the rest his life to “God’s work.”

(Read more Wing and Prayer)

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