Captain Ademilola Odujinrin, the first African to dare fly solo around the world, sits with Chude Jideonwo, host of #WithChude, to discuss his decision to become a pilot, the hurdles he had to face, and the new record he is set to break.
In 2017, Captain Lola Odunjinrin became the first African pilot to do a solo trip across the world in a single-engine lift aircraft. On why he chose to achieve the feat, he shared, “I don’t even know why I am doing this. It could be spiritual; it could be that I am looking for something. The action of so few people has positively impacted so many generations and I would like to think that I am part of the minority that do the impossible. I don’t know why, and I would not be able to answer that, I just get this inner drive to pursue and reach for greatness.” Speaking on the trigger to achieve this feat said, “The trigger is doubt. Every man or woman is scared to fail. They might not own up to it. I am scared of failing, I don’t want to be that guy that is remembered for the wrong reasons. That in itself is a drive.”
Captain Odujinrin shares on the challenges he faced, while growing up, “I was born in England, and I had my formative years in Lagos. I attended Government College Lagos, Surulere. I will say to my friends that when I grow up, I want to be a pilot, and the next thing they say, “Look at your nose, look at your head, is it people for like you?”. A lot of people defeat themselves before they actually make an attempt. The people who do great things were not made in a lab, they were made out of womb, like you and I.”
“I don’t feel satisfied, I think I am like a boxer who wins a world championship and has to go and defend that title. I hope that by my story I have been able to touch lives. I have been able to save a life. A kid was considering suicide when he heard about my story and all that it took me to become the first African to fly solo across the world. And he said to himself, ‘If this guy can fail so many times and still carry on till he succeeded, then I still have hope.’ So, if you can only touch one person, you have made a change,” he added.
Speaking further on the biggest challenge he had faced, “I lost my uncle in 1983, in a plane crash. So, my father wasn’t going to pay for me to become a pilot because he said, ‘I am not going to pay to send my son to die’. That was the first hurdle. I ran from Lagos to London to do several jobs to save to become a pilot. That was the second hurdle, which was financial. The third was the racial side. Whether we like it or not, there are not that many black pilots in the northern hemisphere where I am from. There is a stereotype, and you have to fight off racial prejudice. You have to be three times better.”
He also shared on how he was able to manage the hurdles he faced from home over his decision to become a pilot. “My last name is Odujinrin, and we are from Ijebu. There are three Odujurin, one is a senator, one is a book writer, and my father would go places, and people would ask him which of the Odujinrin he is, and he would say, ‘We are the ones nobody knew’. Then, when I flew around the world, the Vice President called me to Aso Rock. My father went around, saying ‘we are the Odujinrins, the aviators’. He then said to me in all honesty, ‘Son, I wish I had been there for you sooner,’ but no love lost.”
Captain Odujinrin also shared on how he was able to fly around the world against all odds. “I took every day as it came. Sometimes, I got stuck in between and ran off to get jobs to continue. The funniest one, was when I got to Canada, and I ran out of money. I stood there, and I said what do I do now, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh Gofundme!, I am going to call it ‘fund my next mile’. So if everyone gave me a pound for a mile, I would get to London. I was making my luck as I went along. When I got to London there was a story about me in something called ‘Flight International’. So, I got to London, I ran out of money again and I got a job for three months.”
“I flew every leg without knowing where the next money was going to come from. I had written emails, and letters and the reply from everything was ‘No’. I was just like a dog on a bone.” He narrated how someone recognized him from the magazine and got him the sponsorship he needed.
“I had dreamt of flying around the world from the age of 10, and I finally did at the age of 37”, he shared.
Watch the excerpt here