March 31 is a milestone day at I-TEC. Engineers at the start-up evangelical missions agency, headquartered in the flat, rural expanses of northern Florida, roll their exotic vehicle from its hangar for critical tests. It's the world's first flyable car that can legally travel on roads and streets.
Visionaries have long dreamed of leaving the road for the skies, and the idea of a flying car has fascinated pilots as well as Hollywood screenwriters (think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Back to the Future, and The Jetsons).
In the mid-1990s, Steve Saint founded the Indigenous People's Technology and Education Center to build on the vision of his missionary-pilot father, Nate. In 1956, Nate and four other missionaries envisioned taking the gospel to a tribe in Ecuador. But soon after successfully contacting the tribe, all five men were speared to death. Their story—most famously narrated in the book Through Gates of Splendor—is perhaps the most chronicled missionary account of the past 100 years.
Like his father, Steve has had a lifelong fascination with aviation. For years he dreamed of creating a flying car that would be rugged enough and versatile enough to drive through a rainforest. I-TEC's engineering team has turned the dream into an award-winning prototype.
I-TEC's flying car zooms up to 90 mph on paved roads. Off road, it handles ruts like a Land Rover. Yet in six minutes, a pilot can unfurl its fixed parachute wing and take off into the wild blue yonder—at up to 40 mph. "The Maverick" aims to revolutionize transportation "where the road ends," helping indigenous preacher-pilots sustain the church in the remotest rainforests and other uncharted areas.