TEMECULA, CALIFORNIA - Anthony Oshinuga, the son of Nigerian immigrants, arrives early most days at a California airport to check his vintage Cessna aircraft, ready to shuttle passengers over Temecula Valley, the booming wine country north of San Diego. Later, he'll fly loops and rolls in his Pitts Special, an aerobatic aircraft, as he lives his childhood dream of being an aviator.
“It's the fact that you're free in the three dimensions, up down, left, right – yawing left and right – so you're pretty much free. You can do anything you want to do,” he said, “and you can't get that freedom walking on the planet.”
His parents left Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to Austin, Texas, in 1980. Oshinuga was born the following year.
He set his sights on flying at the age of 5, when visiting an airport.
“I was taken by what was going on,” he recalls. “I told my father, that's exactly what I want to do.”
With his small tour company called Air Oshinuga, he flies over the wine country of Temecula in his second aircraft, a 1940s-era Cessna buffed and polished so it looks brand new. He has partnered with two of the many wineries in this valley, the largest wine-producing region in southern California.
“We provide clients with 30-minute aerial scenic flights over Temecula, and then we land and they go down there and do wine tasting,” he explained.
Oshinuga started training as a pilot eight years ago and earned his commercial flying license in 2013. He first entered national flying competitions in 2014.
“That's when I went to the US National Aerobatic Championships (in Denison, Texas), and placed fourth out of 25 competitors,” he recalls. “Since then, things have been really blossoming in the arena of aerobatics and air shows and air racing.”
In 2015, he flew as a rookie in the Reno National Championship Air Race in Nevada, placing second in the biplane category.
Oshinuga studied engineering at the University of California, Riverside, and says that engineering helps to pay the bills, but his passion is aviation, and he plans to stay aloft as long as he can.