'Very up to date': STARS unveils new Edmonton air ambulance helicopter

STARS unveiled its newest helicopter in Edmonton on Tuesday, one it says will help crews get to patients faster and from farther away.

Edmonton Journal 2 minute read June 22, 2022

Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) unveiled its newest helicopter in Edmonton on Tuesday, one it says will help crews get to patients faster and from farther away.

The new Airbus H145 is the ninth helicopter in a fleet upgrade process that’s been a decade in planning.

The arrival of the new aircraft began in 2018, and with Tuesday’s addition, all six STARS bases across Western Canada are now equipped with the new model.

“These aircraft bring a ton of extra safety features, but they also bring an increase in speed and an increase in range,” said Scott Young, an aircraft captain and director of fleet implementation with STARS.

“Really, it brings our older aircraft up to very, very up-to-date status.”

Young said the prior crop of helicopters was “excellent and very reliable” but is also nearing four decades of service and was in increasing need of upgrades and becoming costlier to maintain.

The H145s will also be phased in as the fleet’s only type of helicopter where previously two types of helicopters were used.

“Ten years ago, we knew this day was coming,” Young said.

“We wanted one aircraft type going forward. It’s more economical and much more efficient to just operate one type of aircraft for our operation.”

The same type of aircraft was introduced to STARS’ Grande Prairie base last month, and a tenth H145 will be introduced sometime in September, according to Young.

The helicopter ambulance service has an annual operating budget for its Alberta locations in Grande Prairie, Calgary and Edmonton of about $30 million. About 20 per cent of that is government funded, while STARS relies on donors to raise over $25 million to $26 million a year.

CEO Andrea Robertson says that generosity made the fleet upgrade possible.

“These new aircraft are an investment in our ability to serve the people of Alberta and western Canada,” she said.

“We’re incredibly grateful to the community for helping us reach our goal.”

— with files from Kellen Taniguchi