A Relay in the Sky! (Japanese: 挑戦ポケモンスカイリレー！飛べ、オンバット！！The Pokémon Sky Relay Challenge! Fly, Onbat!!) is the 77th episode of the XY series, and the 876th episode of the Pokémon anime. It first aired in Japan on June 18, 2015 as a one-hour special alongside XY078, in Canada on August 22, 2015, and in the United States on August 29, 2015.
During aerial training with Noibat, our heroes spot three Pokémon flying overhead at impressive speed. It turns out they’re headed to the Pokémon Sky Relay, an aerial race in which three-member teams of flying Pokémon compete against each other. An elderly gentleman named Ornithol offers his Sky Relay expertise, and Ash just happens to have three flying Pokémon, so they agree to work together!
Fletchinder takes an early lead. Then, in the second leg, Hawlucha encounters an aggressive Pelipper that keeps trying to knock it out of the sky...which turns out to be a robot powered by Meowth! Team Rocket is disqualified just in time for Hawlucha to hand off to Noibat for the final stretch, where it almost pulls ahead at the finish line...but an opposing Starly wins by a beak. Our heroes are thrilled with Noibat’s performance, and Ornithol couldn’t be happier about finally competing in the Pokémon Sky Relay!
Ash and his friends take a break on their way to Anistar City. Hawlucha and Fletchinder are still helping Noibat learn how to fly, and Noibat is improving steadily. Despite strong gusts of wind in the area, Hawlucha shows Noibat how to glide safely on them, and Noibat is able to stay aloft for significantly longer than it used to. Unfortunately for the group, Noibat is so overcome at finally achieving some measure of flight that it uses Supersonic. Once Ash calms it down, a Starly, Staravia, and Staraptor fly overhead.
Ash and his friends continue traveling, when they come across a large group of people with their Flying-type Pokémon. As they speculate on what the gathering could be, an elderly man with a Noctowl explains that it is a Pokémon Sky Relay. He introduces himself to them as Ornithol and explains that in a Pokémon Sky Relay, each competing Trainer uses three Pokémon that can fly to participate in a relay race. Suddenly, they all spot the same Starly, Staravia, and Staraptor from before, flying in a formation before returning to their Trainer, a boy named Orson, who was the winner of the last relay as well. Ornithol then suggests that Ash enter the relay with Fletchinder, Hawlucha, and Noibat, and Ash promptly agrees. Meanwhile, Team Rocket watches from nearby and decides to enter the race as well so they can keep a close eye on Noibat and snatch it as soon as it evolves into a Noivern.
Ornithol takes Ash and his friends back to his house to explain how the Sky Relay will work. Each Pokémon will be at a different point in the relay, racing to be the first to bring their team's sash all the way around the course, over and through various obstacles along the way. Ash decides to have Fletchinder start, followed by Hawlucha, and giving the most important role to Noibat. When asked about his experiences with Sky Relays in the past, Ornithol admits that he has never actually participated in one, owing to his inability to catch three Flying-type Pokémon. As a result, he faithfully watches them anyway and supports Trainers in each relay.
As the race begins, Fletchinder and all of the other starting contestants wait at the starting line, their Trainers readying the balloons in which they will follow their Pokémon. Clemont and Bonnie are waiting with Hawlucha at the beginning of the second portion to the race, and Serena is watching over Noibat at the start to the final stretch. As the race begins, Fletchinder takes an early lead, with several other competitors right behind it. During the race, Ash remembers advice Ornithol had given him about the course, and the Pokémon enter a large forest with obstacles to get around. Unexpected events in the forest allow an Altaria to take the lead, with Staravia in second and Fletchinder in third. Suddenly, however, Jessie's Pumpkaboo leaps out of the Altaria's soft wings, taking it by surprise and passing the sash on to a mechanical Pelipper, piloted by Meowth. Not long after, Staravia and Fletchinder arrive, passing the race on to Staraptor and Hawlucha.
Meowth activates a rocket in his mechanical Pelipper that allows it to crash through the rocky obstacles in the second part of the Sky Relay. Staraptor is unable to catch up to it, but Ash orders Hawlucha to use the rocks in order to increase its speed. Hawlucha quickly overtakes both Staraptor and the fake Pelipper. In response, Meowth begins ramming Hawlucha with the side of the machine. Fortunately, Hawlucha dodges and the machine breaks apart, leaving Team Rocket out of the race. Hawlucha then passes the sash on to Noibat, and Noibat leaves the starting point in a race with Orson's Starly. For the majority of the section, Noibat maintains a close lead over Starly. However, Noibat flies over a steep drop, from which a large gust of wind sends it out of control, allowing Starly to gain the advantage. Remembering all of the advice and support given to it by Ash, Hawlucha, Fletchinder, and everyone else, Noibat remembers how to use the wind to its advantage and hurtles towards the finish line, neck-and-neck with Starly. As the race ends, Starly just barely manages to finish first, giving Orson his second consecutive victory.
Although it initially feels bad about having lost the Pokémon Sky Relay, everyone assures Noibat of how proud and impressed they are by its determination and performance. After the awards ceremony, they all continue their journey to Anistar City, with Noibat finally having mastered the art of flying.
Unlike the other episodes affected, it was pulled from iTunes right after, although those who had already purchased and downloaded the episode could still view it. It was then re-released on iTunes on August 30, 2015, the day it was supposed to release.