Taking to the skies as a member of the elite Red Arrows aerobatics display team was the pinnacle of Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham's career.

Born in Johannesburg, Flt Lt Cunningham landed the job after a career in the forces which had seen him complete several tours of Iraq.

He joined the RAF in 2000 and after completing training was based with 617 "The Dambusters" Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.

Over the next three years, Flt Lt Cunningham was involved in operations in Iraq, flying close air support missions for coalition ground forces.

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He started with the Red Arrows in 2010 but was killed in November 2011 aged 35.

In a tribute following his death, his father Jim, mother Monika and sister Nicolette said: "Since his childhood Sean had dreamed of flying fast jets in the Royal Air Force.

"Through his hard work and dedication he achieved that dream and the pinnacle of his career was to fly in the Red Arrows.

"Sean loved his flying and we hope that his life will be an inspiration to all those who share his dreams.

"His fun-loving nature has never failed to put a smile on the faces of those who knew and loved him - this is how he will be remembered."

Flt Lt Cunningham moved to the UK in 1986 aged nine and attended the Ernesford Grange School in Coventry.

He qualified for his private pilot licence at the age of 17.

He studied electrical and electronic engineering at Nottingham Trent University, and completed Elementary Flying Training as a member of East Midlands University Air Squadron.

Speaking after his death, the then air officer commanding Number 22 (Training) Group, Air Vice-Marshal Mike Lloyd said: "The Red Arrows personify the teamwork, professionalism and excellence that is common-place throughout the Royal Air Force and Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham demonstrated each of these values on a daily basis.

"His contribution to the service as an aviator in the Tornado GR4 Force, as a Red Arrows pilot and as an officer has been outstanding.

"Sean will be missed by all and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."

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Group Captain Simon Blake, the commandant of the RAF's Central Flying School, said at the time: "His constant smile, energy, and joie de vivre was infectious and he will be sorely missed by his fellow pilots, the entire Red Arrows team and his many colleagues and friends in the wider Royal Air Force.

"Our heartfelt sorrow and sympathy go out to his family and all those whose lives he touched."