It is common for children to have dreams about their future careers without even understanding the complexities and demands of such a path.
A medical doctor, engineer, nurse, lawyer, pilot, showbiz stars or professional athletes, are among the celebrated professions many schoolchildren fantasize about without even understanding the complexities and demands.
At age six, young Solomon Quainoo was already nursing an ambition of flying a plane as a pilot.
It might have seemed a normal childhood fantasy by a schoolboy from a deprived family background.
But this was no pie in the sky for an ambitious boy strong in his conviction that he will live his life in the skies –literally.
For many, the high point of Captain Quainoo’s aeronautical career may be operating the flagship double-decker A380 aircraft to make a historic flight to the Kotoka International Airport’s modern Terminal 3.
Truly, that October 3 one-off service by the Emirates A380 aircraft from Dubai to Accra (operating as flight EK 787) was historic in many senses as it was the first-ever scheduled service to Ghana by the world’s largest commercial passenger jet.
Perhaps, it’s more significant because an unassuming son of the land spearheaded that historic journey which left Ghanaians – passengers and non-passengers – with goose pimples and a sense of pride when the big and powerful plane was given a water salute as it was brought to a stop.
The euphoria reached fever pitch when Captain Quainoo opened the window of his cockpit and waved the Ghana flag amidst cheers by the welcome party, ground operations staff at the airport, former school mates at Koforidua Secondary Technical, among others.
“It was a historic flight and Emirates Airlines invested a lot because they wanted to make it a successful and memorable inaugural flight.
We did a lot of things to make it special,” Captain Quainoo explains in an interview with The Mirror.
However, Captain Quainoo’s story in the skies goes beyond that historic flight home.
His journey from deprivation into the cockpit of the world’s leading airlines is that of strong determination to live his childhood dreams and faith to look beyond his economic circumstances to break barriers.
He speaks emotionally of how, in spite of his challenging upbringing, God always brought him a divine helper to enable him fulfil his destiny.
“It is about determination, staying focused and staying truthful. That’s my story.
You don’t have to fight for it; God will provide you with your helper,” Captain Quainoo told The Mirror in an interview.
Born to a father who hails from Akwapim,Tutu, and a Fante mother from Apam, Captain Quainoo is the last child of a family of six.
Growing up with his parents, the family moved from Kumasi to Accra and later to Koforidua where he had his secondary education.
Even at Koforidua Sec Tech, he never gave up on his ambitions despite his poor background and occasionally impersonated pilots by wearing white gloves while friends laughed at his dreams.
After secondary school, he applied to join the Ghana Air Force and even passed an assessment test but could not join them after he fell ill during the recruitment exercise.
He proceeded to the University of Ghana to read mathematics and physics while keeping his eye on the ball.
The turnaround in his life came after graduating when he raised funds to travel to London to undertake vacation jobs as a construction labourer and delivering pizza to save money to pursue his ambition.
But through those struggles he decided to go back to school to pursue a Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering in Kingston University in London, even though his ultimate passion was to fly an aircraft.
According to Captain Quainoo he worked at British Airways as a design engineer and later took advantage of an opportunity provided by the airline for engineers to undertake piloting training.
Even with that window of opportunity, he needed to raise a loan to fund his training which cost about £120,000.
And with the help of two UK-based childhood friends who used their houses as collateral, he raised the money to train at the Oxford Aviation training School in the UK.
After obtaining his license to fly, he obtained his first role at British Midlands International where he worked for two years before re-joining British Airways for eight years.
A quest for advancement took him to Emirates, a vibrant and growing carrier where he had a shorter opportunity to become a Captain.
Today, Captain Quainoo is a global citizen whose career has taken him from his humble beginnings in Ghana across the world’s major cities.
He is married with two children, one of whom resides in Toronto while the other child lives with him and his wife in Dubai, where Emirates Airlines is based.
Expectedly, Captain Quainoo loves flying and believes he couldn’t have had a better profession and says it is his hope that many more Ghanaians would follow their dreams like he did despite the challenges.
“I look forward to going to work every day.
I go to different countries and different places every day and I can say piloting is very good for me.
It is the safest place to work [in the air],” he says with excitement.
For him youngsters, including would-be pilots, must not stop dreaming despite the challenges.
He shared similar life experience when he made an emotional visit to his alma mater in Koforidua to mentor the students who were naturally overjoyed to see one of their own, who hours earlier had become a national hero after opening a page in Ghana’s aviation history.
“I shared some of my experience into detail with a group of aviation enthusiasts and among them was one guy who started his training and finished all his ground school and about to start his flying.
“He doesn’t have money to pursue the next critical phase of his training and I told him I was once in a similar situation until the last day I was scheduled to start my flying. So I’ve been encouraging him.
“The biggest hindrance to becoming a pilot is money because you might be the brightest student but may not have the money to pay about £150,000 for the flying course, especially if you’re from our part of the world,” he told The Mirror.