STARS air ambulance announced the arrival of its new donor funded AW139 helicopter recently during an unveiling ceremony at the STARS base at the Edmonton International Airport.
The helicopter is the first of two new AW139 helicopters purchased by STARS for service in Alberta, with the second Calgary dedicated AW139 arriving in 2013.
“The significant financial capital needed to purchase the Alberta-based helicopters initiated the largest fundraising campaign in STARS history, raising over $26.5 million,” said STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson.
“We have now completed the vision of bringing this new helicopter to Alberta thanks to the incredible support of our donors, and partnerships with the provincial government, Alberta Health Services and emergency services.”
The AW139 medically equipped helicopters will enhance access to emergency pre-hospital critical care through more rapid response, an expanded service area, a larger medical interior, more powerful lift capacity and a de-icing system that will enable flight during adverse weather conditions.
“This new helicopter will ensure that patients, even those far away from a critical care centre, will still receive the intensive medical care they need,” said Fred Horne, minister of Health. “The Alberta government recognizes STARS as an important part of our health care delivery system, one that is responsive and provides excellent patient care regardless of location.”
“We can reach further so we’re in remote areas, where you don’t have a fixed wing (airplane) or ground ambulance capability,” said Mike Lamacchia, STARS vice-president of Alberta operations.
“We can reach further on a single tank of gas, which is important for rural and remote.”
There is also de-icing capabilities on the rotor blades of the aircraft, which Lamacchia said means STARS can make more trips into inclement weather.
“There is a percentage of missions we had to turn down because of known icing or inclement weather. Some of these we’ll be able to do.”
Another improvement is the expanded space for two patients. While the BK117 helicopters could carry two patients simultaneously, the new AW139s have more space.
“This aircraft can carry two patients quite easily and you can manage them much more effectively,” Lamacchia said.
A third AW139 will be put into service in Saskatchewan thanks to support from PotashCorp.
It will be based in Saskatoon and is anticipated to arrive in late 2013. Eurocopter BK117 helicopters will continue as the aircraft for the STARS Grande Prairie, Regina and Winnipeg bases.
STARS is a non-profit helicopter air ambulance organization that provides rapid and specialized emergency care and transportation for critically ill and injured patients. STARS operates from bases in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie.
With files from the Red Deer Advocate