Despite manufacturing delays and training challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, STARS’ landmark fleet renewal program is still on track to be fully implemented by mid-2022.
The Regina base reached a milestone after it began flying missions with the new Airbus H145 helicopter full-time in July. The local flight crew were able to build on the experience of their Calgary and Saskatoon base colleagues who have been operating the H145 since 2019.
“The safe transition of a base to a new helicopter type requires a great deal of professionalism, effective training, and a true team effort by all involved,” said David Harding, STARS chief aviation officer.
“Beyond the formal factory training provided to the pilots and engineers, our air medical crew also had to quickly transition so they could continue to provide world-class critical care in their new environment.”
Prior to implementation in Regina, STARS welcomed the fourth new helicopter in the fleet to Saskatchewan with small celebrations that included Very Important Patients, crew, community allies and senior government officials.
The helicopter’s official registration marks are “C-GFRG,” and the last three letters stand for “Founder Rod Gantefoer” in honour of the well-known community leader, provincial politician, and member of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit who was instrumental in establishing STARS’ operations in the province a decade ago.
“Rod has done so much for the thousands of patients we’ve helped across Saskatchewan since 2012,” said STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson. “We’re thrilled that the new aircraft named after him will help us fight for the lives of thousands more patients for decades to come.”
This summer, the Winnipeg base welcomed STARS’ fifth new H145 to Manitoba. The helicopter bears the registration mark C-FMBQ with the “MB” signifying STARS’ commitment to the people and communities it will serve across Manitoba once training is complete, and it starts carrying out missions in the province later this fall.
Our Grande Prairie and Edmonton bases look forward to officially welcoming the H145 to their communities and entering service with the new fleet in mid-2022.
“We’ve got more work ahead of us, but we’re hopeful the community will continue to support the campaign — as they have throughout the pandemic so we can reach our fundraising goal,” said Robertson.
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This summer marked two years since STARS flew its first mission with the H145, and since that time our flight crews in Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina have carried out more than 2,200 missions in the new helicopter.
What our pilots have discovered affirms that the H145 was the best choice of aircraft to propel our mission forward for generations to come, according to Scott Young, STARS director of fleet implementation.
While performance can vary due to various factors like weather, altitude, and load, after more than two years of flying the new helicopter, “We can confirm the H145 outperforms the BK117 in nearly all key areas, including airspeed, range and performance in hot weather and high altitudes,” Young said.