STARS unveils newest fleet addition

  • May. 22, 2013 3:21 p.m.

On Tuesday STARS Air Ambulance unveiled their newest addition to their fleet, the AW 139.

Donors, crew, staff and former patients were introduced to the new flashy red air ambulance at the Red Deer Regional Airport.

“We look at being part of the chain of healthcare, and it’s a real privilege to come and help this community,” said Andrea Robertson, STARS president and CEO.

Five hundred donors raised over $26.5 million, while $1.6 million of the grand total was raised in Red Deer, in order to purchase the two AW 139s that will be stationed in Edmonton and Calgary.

“We wouldn’t be doing what we are doing without your community’s support.”

The AW 139 is a specially equipped operating room in the sky that will enhance access to emergency and pre-hospital care through a more rapid response time and an expanded service area. The AW 139 has the capability to cruise at a speed of 278km/h as opposed to the BK 117’s cruising speed of 225km/h.

“What this means for Red Deer is that we can get in and out faster,” said Robertson.

STARS strives to maintain an hour response time to fly there and back, which will be much easier to maintain with the new helicopters, said STARS spokesman Cam Heke.

With more interior medical room, more powerful lift capacity and a state-of-the-art de-icing system that will allow flight in adverse weather conditions, the AW 139 is a welcomed addition to the STARS fleet, officials said.

Seven-year veteran of STARS Jay McCallum has been flying helicopters for 24 years and said the AW 139 is the most sophisticated helicopter he has flown to date.

“This is all captured alien technology,” joked McCallum about the sophisticated technology onboard the new helicopter. Equipped with cameras on the bottom, and at the tail of the helicopter, the situational awareness that the pilots have is a large improvement over the BK 117s, said McCallum.

The AW 139 also has autopilot and auto-hover capabilities that can be engaged with the push of a button.

“It can basically fly itself,” said McCallum.

Each helicopter is also outfitted with two pilots; a paramedic and nurse, with the option of a doctor should the situation call for one.

Last year STARS flew to Red Deer 55 times for emergency situations.

“The story I like to say is that it’s 55 people, but it’s 55 people with families, so it’s life-changing situations for everyone when we come,” said Robertson.

STARS is still waiting on Transport Canada’s approval of the helicopters and as a result the helicopters have not yet been able to be utilized.

The new helicopters are also able to assist in rescue operations which consist of 3% of all helicopter missions in Alberta.

As a non-profit air ambulance organization, STARS is able to provide rapid and specialized emergency care and transportation for critically ill and injured patients.

Started 27 years ago by a Vietnam War veteran working as a paramedic, STARS now operates from bases in Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg with the ability to serve surrounding communities as well.