Former airport manager wins prestigious award

Villi Douglas, manager of the Port Hardy Airport on and off for 45 years, was award the Robert S. Day trophy Oct. 26.

Villi Douglas, manager of the Port Hardy Airport off and on for 45 years, was presented with the prestigious Robert S. Day Trophy Oct. 26 at the BC Aviation Council’s Silver Wing Awards held in Vancouver. Douglas was presented with the award for his “outstanding contribution, leadership and dedication to the regional air transportation system”.

Douglas, who now lives in south Surrey with his wife Grayce, was nominated for the award by Dave Nowzek from Transport Canada.

“Villi Douglas of Port Hardy is an unsung hero of BC Coastal Aviation. He was base manager of every airline (BC Airlines, Alert Bay Air Services and Pacific Coastal Airlines, to name a few) that operated the Port Hardy Base for some 50 years, wrote Nowzek in his nomination letter.

“As the ‘bed rock’ of Northern Vancouver Island, he mentored hundreds of pilots, engineers, dispatchers, ticket agents and ramp crews while providing consistent and vital air services to the remote Island and coastal communities,” Nowzek wrote.

“Operating a fleet of amphibious aircraft from Port Hardy, he provided superb customer service and reliable service in a challenging environment known for its high winds and stormy marine weather.

Through the years, Villi was the voice of the Northern Island advocating for an air transportation system that would serve the area population safely and in perpetuity.”

The Port Hardy fleet has remained constant through the years with amphibious Beavers, Otters and Goose aircraft being the aircraft of choice.

“Accordingly, Villi and his crews have collectively more time and experience on these types than likely any other region in the world. This has contributed to the success of the base under Villi’s leadership and resulted in the longevity of the service.”

Nowzek also commended Douglas’ approach with staff. “As a mentor, Villi has created some of the best of the best in BC aviation, patiently introducing new hires to the operation and mentoring them in the tough environment of mid and north coast operations.

Working closely with maintenance and operations personnel, he has consistently developed and maintained a spirit of safety, team work and reliability. Transient crews could also rely on a friendly greeting and a coffee while passing through or holding for weather. With this hospitality, Port Hardy was always a welcome ‘port in the storm.’

Nowzek wrote that Douglas’ leadership and dedication to the regional air transportation system is unique and places him in a category of outstanding citizens working for the betterment of the province and the aviation industry. “He is on of BC’s unsung heroes and an example of what makes aviation in BC safe, reliable and a nice place to work.”

“I feel awfully humbled and awfully proud,” said. Douglas of receiving the award, particularly since the nomination came from Transport Canada. Douglas got his first taste of the Canadian 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. Douglas, who immigrated to Canada from Denmark in 1961, left Port Hardy about eight years ago, and is now retired, however he remembers his time here fondly.

“We loved it in Port Hardy. It is an exceptionally great place. We had such a good time there.”