“Don’t focus on the destination, enjoy the journey.” It’s a fitting motto for a woman who works as an aviation lawyer on a continent known to experience its fair share of turbulence across the industry. The list of challenges is endless and ranges from geopolitical issues and a partial open-skies arrangement to ageing equipment and a lack of competition.
Luckily, 29-year-old Heather Wilmot has never expected an easy ride. When she first fell in love with aviation law, with its international character and conventions, she was determined to spread her wings and learn everything about this cutting- edge industry. “When it comes to aviation you can’t only do a tiny bit, you have to understand the industry as a whole.”
But with no specialist courses to speak of in Africa, Wilmot applied herself, learning from her mentor at Norton Rose, Pierre Naude, while putting the right questions to airlines about their commercial needs. With trademark passion, Wilmot helped to expand her department from one that dealt mainly in dispute resolutions to one that has a full-service offering, which includes commercial interests.
Already a natural leader in her firm and field, Wilmot was made a director at Norton Rose South Africa in 2010. With a personal vision to enable a network that will unite the aviation industry in Africa, Wilmot jumped at the chance to become a founding member of the global Aerial Network, even producing a document outlining the South African aviation industry to secure this honour.
In March 2012 Wilmot was instrumental in putting together the first “African Aviation School” — a two-day conference hosting 100 African delegates from all fields in the aviation industry. She may be a high flyer, but Wilmot is constantly grounded by the enormous challenges facing her industry on the continent. But for her it’s all part of the journey.
— Cat Pritchard