Fuel caches extend our reach
“Having access to jet fuel in these areas can save us upwards of 40 minutes on each mission.”
— Capt. Andrew Davidson, AVIATION BASE MANAGER, WINNIPEG
Picture yourself on a road trip. You’re driving along, taking in the scenery. You pass a gas station and consider filling up but assure yourself that you can stop at the next one. A few minutes later, the low fuel light in your vehicle comes on.
When this scenario arises in the family vehicle, you can usually make it to the nearest gas station. But for a STARS helicopter, careful planning and meticulous calculations are made by pilots to ensure that we always have the fuel needed to complete our missions safely.
While our missions are often completed without refuelling or occur in locations where we have easy access to an airport with jet fuel for the return trip, that’s not always the case. In these instances, the aircraft will usually fly to the nearest airport to refuel while our critical care team stabilizes the patient and prepares them for transport.
However, thanks to community partners, STARS has access to fuel in a growing number of remote locations, saving time and allowing us to get our patients to a major trauma centre sooner.
In Manitoba, three mobile fuel trailers are now stationed in rural areas that did not previously have nearby access to jet fuel. The first of these came into service in 2019 in partnership with the fire department in Reston, in southwestern Manitoba. An additional fuel trailer to the west was added by the Hamiota Fire Department in 2021 and, this year, the Winnipegosis Fire Department made a fuel trailer available from their station in the Parkland region.
Capt. Andrew Davidson, aviation base manager for the STARS base in Winnipeg, outlines how crews access these fuel trailers.
“When we are dispatched for a mission and we know we will need to access one of these fuel trailers, our pilots will request that the trailer be activated by the local fire department,” said Davidson. “We also identify the rendezvous location so that the fire department can meet us with the trailer and secure a landing zone for the helicopter. While our medical crew prepares the patient for transport, our pilots can quickly refuel the aircraft so that it is ready to depart again without delay.”
Each trailer contains approximately 400 litres of jet fuel, which is more than sufficient for the aircraft to make its return trip to the receiving trauma centre.
“Having access to jet fuel in these areas can save us upwards of 40 minutes on each mission,” added Davidson. “That time savings allows us to get patients the critical care they need even sooner.”
Thanks to agreements with rural emergency services, provincial conservation and wildfire response agencies, and private operators, STARS has access to a total of 59 remote fuel caches in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, allowing
us to extend our range on missions across western Canada.
STARS is grateful for community partners who are helping extend our reach in remote areas. Because, when it comes to the next patient who needs us, it’s never too far.
This summer, STARS accessed the new fuel trailer provided by the Winnipegosis Fire Department for the first time during a mission in the Camperville, MB area. STARS Pilot Jason Johnson is seen here fuelling STAR-7 alongside members of the Winnipegosis Fire Department and local RCMP. Photo credit: Ray Grenkow.