Dr. Petra Illig graduated from the University of Washington, School of Medicine and also obtained her private pilot's license in 1981. Board certified in Emergency Medicine, she worked in that field for 15 years. She became interested in aerospace medicine and went on to become an FAA Aviation Medical Examiner in 1984.
In 1998 she became the first Regional Medical Director of Air Crew Health Services for Delta Air Lines. Although her primary role was as a flight surgeon, she also had oversight of passenger medical emergencies. She was instrumental in developing the airline's in-flight medical emergency response system, which is still in effect to this day.
Dr. Illig is currently in private practice in aviation medicine in Anchorage, Alaska, and flies a home-built tail-wheel aircraft. She is very active in the Alaskan aviation community, served two terms on the board of directors of the Alaska Airmen Association, and regularly writes aeromedical articles for pilot newsletters. She also wrote a chapter a chapter on Passenger Health for a recently published book for aeromedical physicians, “Clinical Aviation Medicine”, published by World Scientific.
Passionate about the development of commercial space travel, she strongly feels that medical advocacy for space travelers must be faced early on by the fledgling space tourism industry. She has been active in the Aerospace Medical Association's "Task Force on Medical Guidelines for Commercial Space Travel", and keeps in close contact with the FAA and the Russian Space Agency on this subject. She also participates on an international committee which is developing recommendations for medical guidelines for orbital commercial space travel.
Dr. Illig is a proponent of self-regulation, and believes that it is in the interest of the new space industry to develop rational medical guidelines for off-world travelers. It is also important to provide advocacy for potential personal space travelers with medical problems in order to assure a safe, healthy, and enjoyable flight.
In 2011, Petra became a Fellow of both the Aerospace Medical Association and the Civil Aviation Medical Association (CAMA). She has been the recipient of CAMA’s 2011 Audie and Bernice Davis Award for "Outstanding Contributions Directed to the Promotion of Health in the Civilian Aerospace Medicine Field.”
In May 2014, Dr. Illig was awarded a certificate for participation in Virgin Galactic Aviation Medical Examiner Training.