If you’ve ever seen the unmistakable red of the STARS air ambulance, there’s no question that Greg Curtis was at the checkpoints at least once.
Now the veteran driver who played a key role in launching the organization 35 years ago has retired.
Curtis was one of the organization’s first pilots in 1985. From the beginning, he knew that the service would quickly become an important part of Alberta’s first response network.
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“In the United States, (air ambulances) were starting to pick up speed in terms of being a real factor and moving people,” Curtis said. “He knew this was happening and he was really interested in it.”
As technology improved, Curtis made sure STARS was always on the cutting edge.
In 2003, it brought night vision goggles to the organization, making STARS the first civil air carrier to use them in Canada.
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“The glasses gave us a perspective of where we could see and what was happening,” Curtis said in a 2015 documentary released by STARS. “They have had a tremendous impact in terms of how we operate, especially in the mountainous regions at night.”
When it comes to the 3,300 missions for Curtis, you know there were a lot of ups and downs.
Rather than dwell on each result, Curtis said he focused on the aviation aspects of the flights.
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“If I had a philosophy, it would always be to make sure we can get there safely and get home,” Curtis said.
“There was really nothing more important to me than the crew, my plane, and my colleague by my side.”
STARS COO Mike Lamacchia said Curtis’ retirement after 35 years will be felt by everyone in the organization.
“He took a leap of faith and put his whole soul into STARS,” Lamacchia said. “The impact it has had on patients, families, friends, colleagues … that’s something that never leaves you.”
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Curtis said he will miss traversing Alberta’s beautiful scenery, and any other flight is likely to be passenger, preferably en route to some untouched power in the Rocky Mountains.
He adds that he will keep an eye on his colleagues as they carry on with their important work.
“They fly over my house every day and torment me,” Curtis laughed. “I thank you.”
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