STARS founder Dr. Greg Powell has a new honour to add to his resume: He’s being inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

Dr. Powell, whose long list of accolades includes being appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada (2006), will officially be inducted during a ceremony on June 7, 2018, in Calgary.

“This is truly a tribute to all the men and women at STARS and the wonderful contribution they’ve made to patient care,” said Dr. Powell.

His inspiration for STARS came from the Vietnam War. In 1969, Dr. Powell was an observer at a MASH unit outside of Saigon, where he witnessed lives being saved due to medevac efforts that quickly brought badly wounded soldiers to sophisticated emergency health care.

“I just knew, if we had those same patients in Alberta, we weren’t going to save them,” said Dr. Powell.

By the early 1980s Dr. Powell was working in an emergency room, and he and some colleagues were looking for ways to save more lives.

“We recognized that we were seeing people who were salvageable if we had actually got to them earlier in their trauma,” he said.

He then recalled what he’d seen in Vietnam and, together with Dr. Rob Abernethy, pitched an idea to Lions Club members David Dalgetty, Art Hironaka and John Panton.

“On the back of a napkin one day in a hotel somewhere in Calgary we drew up the plans for an airport-based helicopter that would be able to transport us to communities within range and perhaps reduce the morbidity and mortality rate we were seeing in emergencies.”

STARS officially launched in 1985. It has since flown more than 36,000 missions and has grown to six bases across Western Canada.

“Years ago, who would have thought?” said Hall of Fame board member Gordon Berturelli. “I’m sure his vision was one helicopter, maybe two at the most, but here we are with 11, and countless lives have been saved. People are walking around today thankful, thankful for STARS Air Ambulance.”

Dr. Powell earned his pilot’s licence as a resident in training and, always a flying enthusiast, was a crucial link between the aviation and medical worlds as STARS found its early wings.

“I may have been the spark because of the physician-aviator blend I brought to the table, but the bonfire was here,” said Dr. Powell, standing inside the Calgary STARS base. “These people around me really rose to the occasion and drove this organization far beyond the heights that I ever imagined.”

His wife Linda Powell was understandably proud of his Hall of Fame award.

“To not only be nominated but also to be named a recipient is such a special honour for him and for STARS,” she said. “I’m thrilled for him and for us as a whole team.”

Dr. Powell will be one of four people inducted during the gala in June 2018. The others are:

  • John Bogie was co-founder of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association; he also helped create the Experimental Aircraft Association of Canada, as well as a civilian pilot group for Search and Rescue in the military, and he helped establish the Canadian Business Aircraft Association.
  • General (Retired) Paul D. Manson was a fighter pilot and had a 38-year career in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was Chief of Defence Staff from 1986 to 1989. Gen. Manson also served as chairman for Lockheed Martin Canada, and as president of aerospace company Paramax. Additionally, he was the chairman of the Passing the Torch campaign, which raised more than $16 million for the Canadian War Museum. Following that, he was chairman of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, and of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. What’s more, Gen. Manson has honorary Doctorate of Military Sciences degrees from Royal Roads Military College and the Royal Military College, and in 2002 became an Officer of the Order of Canada.
  • Dr. John M. Maris’ resume includes: Canadian Armed Forces operational pilot, test pilot, project manager, and Canadian Space Agency team leader. He was chairman of Aerospace Industries Association of Canada and was involved with engineering for Canadarm 2, the robotic arm aboard the International Space Station.