Before air ambulance services; before B.C. Search and Rescue; there was Villi Douglas.
Douglas – who’s retired and now lives in South Surrey – is being called an “unsung hero” by the BC Aviation Council for his lifetime of work at the Port Hardy Airport.
He spent 45 years working every job from bush pilot to base manager at the airport, located near the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
The B.C. Aviation Council does not use the phrase ‘unsung hero’ lightly.
“I’ve done hundreds of (rescue missions) at various times. They are all exciting but I don’t know, not one stands out. In the early days, you had to do everything. It was not just flying an airplane in crappy weather. One of the few things I did right away was get a first-aid course to upgrade it to deal with people in these small logging camps. This was before Workers Compensation Board and things like that,” he said.
“You just ended up with a guy laying on the dock bleeding and you had to figure out how to get them to a hospital.”
Born and raised in Denmark, Douglas got his first taste of the Pacific Coast after being drafted into the military. He said he didn’t like being a solider so he applied for aircrew. He passed the necessary tests and learned how to fly jets in Canada under NATO.
He immigrated to Canada from Denmark in 1961. Shortly after he started working for the airport.
He said a lot has changed since he retired in 2008.
“It’s much more sophisticated now with air ambulance services and all these things. There was a major push in terms of work up there with sports fishing in the summertime, especially on the central coast. That has been kind of reduced as of late. I don’t know why, if it’s the economy or whatever it is. We did a lot of that.”
For now, he’s happy to enjoy retirement in South Surrey with his wife, Grace.
“I really enjoyed myself a lot up there and the time came to hang up my ear phones.”
A news release from BC Coastal Aviation Council says that throughout Douglas’ career, the Port Hardy fleet remained constant with amphibious Beavers, Otters and Goose aircraft. Douglas and his crews have collectively more time and experience on these types of aircraft than “likely any other region in the world. “
Douglas, 78, was presented with the Robert S. Day Trophy at the B.C. Aviation Council’s Silver Wing Awards Oct. 26.