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Laura Ilunga

Laura was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo; however South Africa has been her home from a young age. She matriculated from Pretoria High School for Girls in 2003 and the following year began her aviation career in the South African Air Force (SAAF) as a pupil pilot. She successfully received her military pilot wings in 2007, then completed her military rotor wing conversion. Laura also holds both the helicopter and airplane multi-engine Commercial Pilot Licences in South Africa and in the USA. Through the South African Military Academy, she obtained a diploma from the University of Stelenbosch in BMil: Technology and Defence Management majoring in Aeronautical Science.

Laura flew as an operational SAAF helicopter pilot based at 15 Squadron, Air Force Base Durban, flying mountain and offshore rescue operations, firefighting, undersling operations, night specialist operations (NVG), V/VIP transportation, and casualty and medical evacuations. She did five peacekeeping and enforcement tours to the DRC under the UN, as well as an AU operational deployment in Uganda.

Since 2012 Laura has been working for Starlite Aviation Operations. Firstly, based in Kosovo for almost two years, flying medical evacuations and other various flying operations for the European Union Rule of Law Mission. Laura is currently based in Bamako, Mali flying medical evacuations and carriage of passengers and European dignitaries in support of the EU Training Mission in Mali.

In 2013 Laura received an award at the South African Most Influential Women in Business and Government banquet as the runner up in the General Sector category. In 2014 she was awarded the FlightSafety International Bell 206 Scholarship at the Whirly-Girls Banquet at the 2014 Heli-Expo held in Anaheim, California.

Apart from flying, Laura enjoys playing tennis, spending time with her large family, with friends, and exploring the world.