Remy Oktay's fly-over was one-of-a-kind, and he sat down to tell us how it all shook out.
If we made a single correct assumption before sitting down with Remy Oktay, it's that electric planes suffer in much the same way electric cars do. They're expensive, for one. The aircraft you see here costs around $200,000. Cheap, as planes go, but by no means a figure to scoff at. They're also bound by their range and infrastructure. These planes need external converters to charge as electric cars do. To our ears, many of these issues sound like problems affecting the Ford F-150 Lightning.
As a brief refresher, Remy, a Lafayette College student, hatched a plan to fly this little electric plane from Hartford, Connecticut, to his college in Easton. The trip crossed four states using five F-150 Lightnings as its charging network. Now, with the flight complete, Oktay is back to tell us how things went.
"The Lightnings came about as a point of necessity," Oktay says. Plans for the trip's penultimate event - the first electric plane flyover at a Lafayette College football game - were already in motion before Oktay even had the idea.
Oktay got the idea for that over the summer while in flight school but realized Pennsylvania's lack of charging infrastructure might be a problem. Sound familiar?
Another issue was the "how" of charging the plane. Its socket type is unique. No CCS charger would fit it, so the plane's two AC to DC converters needed for charging had to get their power from somewhere. Regardless of the vehicle, these large, heavy inverters had to be carried by car for the trip to work, says Oktay. So, why not throw them in something large enough to charge and transport them?
"They're all about EVs," says Remy of his family. Remy's father and uncle suggested charging via Ford's Pro Power On-Board after a conversation about how to transport the large converters came up.
So, a post went up on a Lightning owners' forum. The community came together for Remy, and it's good they did. The converters are massive. The hundred-pound converters are challenging to carry at two feet tall and as many feet long. With the plan taking shape, Remy and a team of students had a rough idea of how things would work.
The plane would depart home in Hartford, stopping to charge along the way using the converter-laden Lightnings as chase cars. Once safely back on the ground, Remy would hop out, charge the plane, and get back in the air.
Remy was accompanied by the plane's owner for any and all of the flying he did. Phillip Smith owns the plane and is licensed to fly solo. So is Remy, but he, laughing nervously, recounts Phil's words: "Remy, I trust you, but this is a $200,000 plane, and I've only known you for a couple of weeks - so I'm gonna fly along with you."
"It ended up working out, though. He has a lot of time in that plane," says Remy. The two had a routine in mind for the flying, with Phil handling the risker takeoffs and landings for Remy.
What flying he did sounded like a joy, especially the "anti-flyover" (a term Oktay coined), which from what Remy tells us, was that excellent mix of a little scary, fun, and exciting. On top of that, the plane and every Lightning involved performed flawlessly. "The chase helicopter had a mechanical issue halfway through the trip. [The plane and the truck] were the only things that didn't break."
Oktay didn't just do it to brag in class the next day. He's a double major at Lafayette - engineering, following in the family's footsteps, and environmental studies. "I really enjoy doing projects that engage the Lafayette community," Oktay tells us. "We're at a critical turning point in combating climate change, and we need to get the public aware of and excited about these new technologies" was Remy's primary motivator.
Awareness was undoubtedly raised. ESPN broadcasted the flyover and an interview on the field with Remy. Ford CEO Jim Farley shared the students' efforts on Twitter, and Ford personnel helped put on a tailgate event to showcase the Lightning, Remy's flight, and the need for electric vehicles during the game.
Remy's 24.5-hour round-trip left him optimistic about the future, and hoping his flight got people excited about these topics. "If you go out onto the field thinking you're gonna lose, you're gonna lose," Remy says about climate change. "But if you think you have a chance and can do this, then you can make a difference and have a chance at winning."