If you’ve ever seen the unmistakable red of the STARS Air Ambulance, there’s no doubt Greg Curtis was at the controls at least once.
Now, the veteran pilot who played a key role in launching the organization 35 years ago has retired.
Curtis was one of the first pilots with the organization back in 1985. From the beginning, he knew the service would quickly become an important part of Alberta’s first response network.
“In the United States, (air ambulances) were starting to really pick up speed in terms of being a real factor and in moving people,” said Curtis. “I knew that was happening and I was really interested in it.”
As technology improved, Curtis ensured that STARS was always at the forefront.
In 2003, he brought night vision goggles to the organization, making STARS the first civilian air carrier to use them in Canada.
“The goggles brought us a perspective of where we could see and what was happening,” said Curtis in a 2015 documentary released by STARS. “They’ve had a tremendous impact in terms of how we operate especially into the mountainous regions at night.”
When it came to Curtis’s 3,300 missions, he knows there were many highs and lows.
Instead of dwelling on every outcome, Curtis said he was focused on the aviation aspects of the flights.
“If I had a philosophy, it would always be just making sure that we can get there safely and get home,” said Curtis.
“There really wasn’t anything more important to me than the crew, my aircraft and my colleague beside me.”
STARS chief operating officer Mike Lamacchia said having Curtis retire after 35 years will be felt by everyone in the organization.
“He took a leap of faith and he put his whole soul into STARS,” said Lamacchia. “The impact that he’s had on patients, families, friends, colleagues… that’s something that never leaves you.”
Curtis said he will miss traversing across Alberta’s beautiful landscape, and that any more flying will likely be as passenger, preferably on the way to some untouched power in Rockies.
He adds that he’ll be keeping an eye out for his colleagues as they continue their important work.
“They fly over my house every day and they kind of torment me,” Curtis laughed. “I appreciate them.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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