Retiring chief pilot Peter Turnbull says a simple but poignant handwritten message in a floral card has encapsulated his time with the Northland Rescue Helicopter service.
"Thank you .... for saving my life," the card reads.
"That card really said it all for me. Being part of a team that receives feedback like that sums it up and that's what we're here for."
With 24 years of life-saving service in Northland skies Turnbull has decided to retire.
He's a humble man and not one who likes the spotlight. But today67-year-old Turnbull will be the centre of attention as people gather at Toll Stadium in Whangārei to celebrate his service with the Northland Rescue Helicopter.
"It's been a privilege to have worked with such capable machinery and have such an interesting job. It's been great to have the support of the people I work with and from the public and the people we rescue.
"It makes me feel very proud and I say that from my heart."
While he was on the mechanical end of the rescue service, Turnbull said he was amazed by the paramedics, doctors and nurses who are so compassionate to the patients who are transported in the back of the helicopters.
"Seeing the others at work, I am in awe of them."
Flying was something Turnbull dreamed of as a young child.
"I remember when I was 3 or 4 telling my dad about how I used to dream of flying and that desire to fly has never left me. I used to close my eyes at night when I was young and all I could see was planes."
At the age of 17 - before man had landed on the moon - Turnbull started his flight training at the Southland Aero Club and two years later he was a qualified pilot.
His first job was flying skiers and tourists to the ski slopes near Mt Cook before cutting his teeth for the challenging rescue chopper work he would undertake later in his career doing top dressing.
He joined the Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST) - now referred to as the Northland Rescue Helicopter - in 1995 and soon after the trust upgraded from one to three helicopters to meet demand in the region.
He was instrumental in testing and preparing the long-range Sikorsky S-76 helicopters for operational duties in Northland.
With a flight range of three hours, the Sikorsky were ideal for long-distance dashes to remote areas of Northland, patrolling the region's vast coastline and undertaking sea rescues around the country.
"There was increasing demand, and a real need, to provide emergency responses in Northland that had the capability to deal with the tricky terrain and the vast distances from remote areas to hospitals and specialist medical support."
Another major aviation milestone Turnbull led with the team was the establishment of Instrument Flight Rules' (IFR) routes throughout Northland which allows pilots to navigate in poor weather.
"Because the pilot is only using flight instruments rather than traditional visuals, the route gives prescribed altitudes and headings to be flown which means we don't have to fly under the weather, we can fly in the weather. Northland's weather is challenging, not a threat or an enemy."
He is quick to thank his wife, Nicky, who he married in 1982, for supporting him through his career. He said his four children got used to moving around the country and world at short notice so he could take up flying jobs.
"Nicky has been so supportive of everything that was often very disruptive to her life. Bringing up the family was left to her. She doesn't seem to mind me climbing into bed at 2am and smelling of jet fuel."
Accolades have come as a result of his passion in the aviation industry and in 2017 receiving Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).
In 2018 Turnbull was recognised at the Annual Aviation Awards for his outstanding contributions to the development of aviation in New Zealand.
"Pete is an aviation pioneer," trust Chairman Paul Ahlers said.
"The work he did with former trust chairman John Bain and chief pilot Reg Ellwood to get the Sikorskys operational was a huge achievement and these aircraft showcased the limits a rescue chopper service could successfully work under."
Retirement means more sailing, trips in the caravan, ticking off the lists of jobs to do around home and filling in for the occassional shift back with the rescue helicopter team.