For many of us, a regular oil change and tire rotation is the only routine maintenance our vehicles receive. However, at STARS, our unwavering commitment to operating the safest helicopter EMS fleet available means a more elaborate maintenance schedule is required.

“Regular preventative maintenance is absolutely imperative to ensure STARS’ helicopters operate at peak performance and provide the utmost safety for our patients and crew,” said Dwight Webb, STARS director of maintenance. “This often requires taking apart a helicopter piece by piece to inspect it.”

Aircraft manufacturers set a rigorous periodic maintenance schedule that is meticulously carried out by certified aircraft maintenance engineers.

STARS’ highly skilled team of engineers work across our six bases and are on-call 24 hours a day, every day of the year, to ensure our fleet is always safe and mission ready.

As we renew our fleet of helicopters, one of the benefits of operating a single model of aircraft is less time and money spent on dual-platform maintenance and training.

“Overall, the H145 has so far proven to be reliable with less unscheduled downtime than the older BK117 and AW139 helicopters and is one of the top performing twin engine helicopter designs of its size in the world,” said Webb. “It is an excellent balance between safety, mission capability, operating cost and performance – just right for STARS.”

To perform their duties on the new Airbus H145, our engineers, who are already some of the most experienced in the Canadian helicopter industry, must travel to Ontario and Texas for weeks at a time to undertake an additional 240 hours of classroom education and hands-on training.

Local allies donate technical expertise to support mission

Scheduled maintenance for the H145 is required every 12 months and after 400 and 800 flying hours. This thorough process includes the inspection and testing of all elements of the aircraft — engines, avionics and airframe — and it necessitates the removal of the large outer coverings, or cowlings, that protect the vital components of the helicopter.

“In the past, these cowlings needed a lot of shelf and floor space for the duration of the maintenance process – which can take up to three weeks or more, depending on the type of inspection needed,” said Brad Parkinson, an aircraft maintenance engineer at STARS’ Saskatoon base. “This created more risk of damage to the cowlings or potentially the aircraft themselves with less hangar space for moving aircraft in and out.”

Thanks to the vision and generosity of community allies the Saskatoon base now has a custom- designed solution. Led by Windsor Plywood, a group of local businesses including Opheim’s Wooden/ Steel Designs, Novakoski Quality Collision, Sharp Auto Trim, and Lancashire Distribution built a rolling cowl stand, with shaped and padded “shelves” for storing all the necessary H145 cowlings when the team is working on the aircraft.

“The cowl stand functions incredibly well, allowing us to safely store the helicopter cowlings and roll them away to an area far from the possibility of them being harmed,” said Parkinson. “We’re immensely grateful to our community supporters for designing and building such a useful piece of equipment that saves space, time and money and contributes to the overall success of our mission.”