Nigerian Pilot Completes Historic Expedition

By Adedayo Fashanu

Happy Captain Lola upon his arrival at the Washington DC Dulles airport on March 29th 2017

On March 29th 2017, Ademilola “Lola” Odujinrin a 38-year-old pilot arrived successfully from his “One Man, One Plane”
expedition, completing the final leg of his historic journey, landing
safely at Washington Dulles International Airport. The pilot completed
the entire circumnavigation in a specially configured SR22 Cirrus
9-year-old aircraft with registration number N313CD that can fly
17-and-a-half hours before refuelling, stopping in more than 15
countries on five continents, returning to Washington DC, where his
journey began back in June 2016.

The flight is part of Project Transcend, a foundation which aims to inspire young people to achieve their goals, regardless of their personal circumstances.
A
vastly experienced pilot who has been flying for 17 years, Captain Lola
Odujinrin was trained in the UK and US and he flew for Arik Air for
five years and works for Air Djibouti.
Ademilola
has logged over 4,000 hours as a commercial Boeing 737 pilot since
earning his pilot licence in 2011. Lola from the age of 15, began to
save earnestly to achieve this dream. He worked two jobs while studying
for his A’ levels and at age 20 he qualified for his Private Pilot
License (PPL) in just 19 days in April 1999. Lola at some point had to
put his dream on hold to be able to handle the obstacles of trying to
make a living. Lola is many things including a husband, father to two
children, son to proud parents and brother to two siblings. He is also a
keen adventurer who says he sees any challenge as an opportunity and is
an avid lover of motor and quad bikes, bicycles and boats but his
greatest passion lies in the skies. As a young boy, Lola looked up to
his uncle who was a commercial pilot and went flying with him during an
era when sitting in the flight deck was not an issue. It wasn’t long
after that Lola realized his calling was actually to be an airline
pilot. He started having dreams of one day being able to fly around the
world ― the passion and desire grew with every passing day and he began
to tell his family that he wanted to be a pilot. With the wide-eyed
delight of that little boy who was so fortunate to go on a flight so
early on in his life with his pilot uncle Fast forward to 2016, Lola
dared that dream with the hope that completing this journey will light a
similar passion in at least one young person in Africa, saying “nothing
is impossible if you have a vision and act with purpose.”

What
this pilot has dared to accomplish can be referred to as a very
“un-African” thing to do, perhaps it is why this story has not gone
fully global as one would imagine if he was not African, the whole world
will have cameras on him. In accomplishing this feat, he ranks as the
115th person in the world to make this record.

During my interview with Captain Lola and his supportive wife Cynthia at the Washington DC Dulles airport; March 29th 2017.
When
asked “WHY” this adventure was particularly necessary for Lola to make
happen, risking his life and going on such daring adventure, it is hard
to digest the reasons he claims because looking around at this early
stage, with only a few media houses making headline news about this
mind-blowing accomplishment by the first ever African, it begs one to
wonder how he even stayed motivated beyond all the odds and challenges
if it looks like no one cares.

Lola mentions two major reasons behind his motivation to make this historic achievement, so let’s analyze those reasons:

1.
Lola says because of his love for not only his country but his
continent Africa. In Lola’s words, “ to reshape the perception of
Nigeria through great achievements that defy expectation and to redefine
the African narrative” 
The
problem with Africa is that we have a lot of hidden figures and very
well so, because that is what keeps the Africans as undervalued, so no
matter what an African invents or accomplishes, it never ever fully gets
its minimum requirement of “15 minutes of fame” not to talk about the
success being widely appraised and celebrated. An accomplishment like
Captain Lola’s cannot afford to stay under the radar but must be shared,
talked about, well documented, discussed, and widely celebrated. When
we no longer have change-makers of our continent hidden, but rather
exposed and held up as inspirational models, the negative narrative of
Africa will begin to transform!
2.
Lola says the other major reason is “to inspire the youth of Africa to
‘Dare to Dream,’” he goes on to say, “Ever since I was a child, I
dreamed of one day flying around the world. We have a responsibility to
lead by example and follow our dreams. I want African children to think:
‘I can do this too!’” 
Let’s
dissect this: It is important to note that what we need especially the
African millennials is ‘Hope.” Africa continues to have a bulging youth population and
is the youngest continent in the world with a large working age
population. This means the continent’s economy stands to develop rapidly
in the near future. With the world at 1.8 billion young people, over
200 million youths are in Africa where according to African Economic
Outlook that number will double by 2045, this youth bulge could be
economically beneficial. This millennial generation are seeking for
guidance, mentorship and constant inspiration to stay motivated.
Unfortunately there are not many African leaders in power to look up to
so if there are more individual role models setting the standard like
Captain Lola, just imagine what sort of impact this could play for the
African youth? Lola discusses that the vision is to give hope to these
youth, to re-energize their zest and stimulate their thirsts for
greatness. To-reaffirm their hopes and encourage their motivation to
achieve their dreams.
If
there is anything to take away from this story, is that Africa suffers
from a lack of role-model representation, we lack inspirational figures
not because we don’t have them but because we don’t know them. Their
stories on their triumphs and accomplishments are not as celebrated on
headlines as constant as the outpouring of negative news. We are at a
juncture for change and we cannot stay silent. When you hear about a
good report from the continent or you spot someone who is making the
continent proud, celebrate them and announce them to the world. It looks
like, Africans are the ones who will have to start telling their own
stories, no more waiting on others!
Captain Lola with wife and kids

During
the interview, Lola seized the opportunity to extend his sincere
gratitude to his wife and kids for their unwavering support throughout
the process and to Air Djibouti’s Chairman, Aboubaker Omar Hadi, and
Cardiff Aviation’s Chairman, Bruce Dickinson, who he says supported him
throughout the journey. Without them, “ this would not have been
possible.” he adds. 

All formed part of a high-level delegation to welcome the historic
aviator on the tarmac at Dulles Airport, including: the Ambassador of
Djibouti to the United States, His Excellency, Mr. Mohamed Siad Doualeh;
Senior Director of Strategic Planning for Djibouti Ports & Free
Zones Authority, Mr. Dawit Michael Gebre-ab; and Chief Operating Officer
of Air Djibouti, Mr. Moussa Houssein.
 
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