“I’d like to think I’m normal.” These were the opening words of Lola Odujinrin’s speech about his record-setting flight around the world. In truth he is anything but.
The journey to becoming the first British-African pilot to fly solo around the world was not an easy one, as Mr Odujinrin described in a talk in Elephant and Castle last Tuesday night.
He battled from the age of 14 until he was 31 to become a commercial pilot, something he’d dreamed of since he was a child making kites out of newspapers.
The initial stage was acquiring his private pilot license (PPL), something that should have taken up to three months, but that he did in just 19 days. With that in hand he began his work to become a commercial pilot and to embark on his flight around the world.
However, becoming a pilot was only the first obstacle he would have to overcome for his flight around the world.
On his flight, which brought him to 35 different countries, he had to battle seven separate breakdowns. On one occasion he was forced to travel between Italy and London six times to get the necessary parts for his plane.
In Oman he was suspected of being an international spy, having been forced to land at a private airfield thanks to a malfunction.
He also had to navigate some of the worst conditions any pilot could experience during the stormy season in Australasia.
Though a storm in Indonesia brought a touching experience. He said to himself: “You’ve survived… I went to the orphanage and I thought I’ll buy some gifts for the kids. It was amazing.”
That experience possibly inspired Lola’s next moves, ensuring his legacy won’t just be this flight. Initially in Elephant & Castle, Lola is working with schools in the area to set up flight simulators for children aged 14-16.
“You ask an average kid on the street if they know how to become a pilot, they say ‘nope’. They think becoming a pilot is a big deal, it’s no big deal. It’s just knowing how to go about it.”
Lola wants to give teenagers the opportunity to experience flying, showing them that being a pilot is an attainable goal.
He wants to encourage others that they can believe in their dreams and relentlessly pursue them.
Lola is also currently planning to break the record for altitude reached in an un-pressurised aircraft. He’ll need to reach an incredible 60,000 feet.
In addition, he is working on a book titled How not to fly around the world. He’ll talk about his flight while aiming to motivate and encourage others to pursue their goals with the same dedication and vigour as he did his, with his ‘never-give-up spirit and tenacity’.
Having already achieved so much, and aiming to achieve much more, Lola is anything but normal. He is inspirational and admirable, and he will continue to prove to others that they can be too.
Feature image courtesy of Lola Odujinrin