Dreams do come true …
I did it on the 29th June 2016. The first African to fly solo around the world and in an aircraft half the size of an average family car.
It only washed over me once I’d finally landed. The dangers I’d faced, the challenges I overcame, the strength I found. I had thought it would be tough, I just didn’t realise quite how tough circumnavigating the globe would be.
Plenty of people had tried to prevent my dream, long before I had even begun my journey. A dream of over 10 years … I had to shut myself off from the countless rejections, the endless stream of “Nos” … I had to become immune to it all to begin my long road to the 29th June 2016.
I remember vividly making paper kites and flying them into the night when I was younger. I’d watch the patterns my kites would make and notice the planes, littered across the sky, making their own patterns across the inky black night.
“What are they doing?” I’d ask my father, who was kind enough to explain the holding pattern to me, when we’d watch them late into the night. One day my father told me that he himself had dreamt of becoming a pilot.
But my father had never fulfilled his ambition. He was encouraged to choose a different path despite his yearning to fly. A career in aviation had been considered an exceptionally dangerous one and my mother’s family set my father an ultimatum. My mother or his career …
I was only 10 years old when I had this conversation with my Dad and it resonated with me. The idea of a man only a generation away from me having to give up on his dream. I appreciated all that my father had sacrificed, but I felt destined to fly. Unfortunately, it was not long before I realised that I had my work cut out for me trying to convince these same family members that I was dreaming of a career in aviation.
Luckily for me, as I was turning 14, my aunt married ‘Uncle Ayo’, a fully qualified pilot. Finally, I had someone within the family to emulate!
Meeting Uncle Ayo for the first time, I could barely contain my excitement. As a kid, this man looked like everything I could ever dream to be. I was full of admiration.
Naturally I pestered him night and day with phone calls until he relented and invited me on board to fly with him the next time he was in our part of the country. This was beyond my wildest dreams and I painstakingly counted the days until he next visited.
When the time came I was amazed to see how big the aircraft was. I had no recollection of ever flying in an aircraft as I was just four months old when my parents moved back to Nigeria.
Walking with Uncle Ayo through the corridor was like walking alongside a major general with everyone saluting in respect. He was so highly regarded, I felt so proud to be associated with him … and this was before we’d even made it to the cockpit!
Needless to say my experience in the cockpit was unforgettable and to this day I remember exactly how it went, from the night stop in Kano, Nigeria to the early start the next day. I barely slept over the next few nights as I dreamed of my first flying experience.
I knew had found my calling.
From that first experience, the people who knew me were undoubtedly bored of hearing my plans to become a pilot and fly around the world.
The majority never believed me. People would always remind me of all the reasons why I could not be a pilot. But I was full of conviction and determined to succeed. I simply saw myself in a world of no limits.
But even in a world of no limits… I needed a plan. And so I began to piece together the practicalities of becoming a pilot.
The main barrier? The necessity to earn my pilots licence… which (I’m sure that many of you know) are not cheap!
So I needed to start saving. I needed to work hard and begin scraping enough money together to even begin to think about affording this… And it was only then that I realised that the hardest part of any journey was taking the first step…
The 29th June 2016 crept ever closer…
To be continued…