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Together with former patients, crew and community allies, STARS has officially welcomed to its Calgary, Alta., base two new Airbus H145 aircraft. The helicopters are the first part of a plan to replace the non-profit air ambulance’s entire fleet across Western Canada.
“Today is about bringing us one step closer to making our fleet renewal program a reality,” said STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson. “It is also about paying tribute to the aircraft that have served critically ill and injured patients across Western Canada for 34 years. We are told the lives we help save and the time we give patients and their families makes a difference.”
The milestone event was marked by the air arrival of STARS’ first patient, Kelly Waldron, in an H145 helicopter that honors her place in STARS history by proudly bearing the official registration marks “C-GKLY”-a nod to her first name.
STARS unveiled in June 2018 its ambitious, multi-year plan to renew its current fleet of BK117 and AW139 helicopters with new Airbus H145 aircraft.
“The bulk of our fleet–the BK117 helicopters–are no longer being built and are becoming costlier to maintain,” said Robertson. “Independent assessments of the sustainability of our fleet told us we needed to move from two aircraft types to one.”
An extensive review resulted in the selection of the Airbus H145 aircraft as the best option for STARS’ new fleet. It is a technologically advanced model with an updated version of the medical interior found in STARS’ existing helicopters.
“The H145 family of aircraft has built a reputation as a proven and flexible solution for emergency medical services,” said Romain Trapp, president of Airbus Helicopters Canada. “We are humbled and proud to deliver the first of many high performance H145s to STARS, supporting life-saving missions across Western Canada.”
Nine new helicopters are required to replace STARS’ fleet, at a cost of $13 million each, medically equipped. Thanks to the generous support of federal and provincial government allies, STARS is well on its way to achieving its goal. A capital campaign will continue to raise funds to replace the rest of the fleet.
STARS anticipates these first two new helicopters will enter service later this summer.