STARS is one step closer to renewing its fleet of helicopters, thanks to a $500,000 gift from the County of Grande Prairie.
The generous commitment, which was announced Saturday at the 10th Annual GPPA Hangar Dance in Support of STARS at the TARA Centre, has been made toward a new H145 helicopter to serve County of Grande Prairie residents and the entire northern region.
“Many of us know or have experienced firsthand the lifesaving power of STARS support,” said County of Grande Prairie Reeve Leanne Beaupre. “We understand how large of an investment is required for this crucial and lifesaving resource to remain viable, which is why the County is proud to continue supporting this critical health service for our region. We trust that Alberta Health Services’ current review of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services will ensure that northwestern Alberta maintains the first class level of service that we have come to expect with STARS air ambulance.”
The non-profit air ambulance organization unveiled to its allies in Grande Prairie last September a multi-year plan to replace its fleet of BK117 and AW139 aircraft with nine new medically equipped Airbus H145 helicopters, at a cost of CAD $13 million each.
“The bulk of our aging fleet is no longer being built and is becoming costlier to maintain,” said Andrea Robertson, STARS president and CEO. “Independent assessments of the sustainability of our fleet told us we needed to move from two aircraft types to one.”
An extensive review resulted in the selection of the H145 aircraft as the best option for STARS’ new fleet. It offers cutting-edge technology, advanced safety features, and an updated version of the medical interior found in STARS’ existing helicopters.
STARS is already flying missions with the new H145 aircraft from its Calgary base, thanks to early support from the federal and provincial governments. The remainder of the new fleet – including a new helicopter to operate out of the Grande Prairie base – is expected to be delivered by 2022.
The County of Grande Prairie’s large gift to STARS’ fleet renewal fundraising campaign is above and beyond its significant annual contributions to STARS’ day-to-day operations.
At a cost of $10 million per base per year, STARS relies on donations from individuals, clubs, municipalities, the Government of Alberta and fundraisers like the GPPA Hangar Dance and the STARS lottery to keep its helicopters in the sky.
“STARS was built by the community for the community, and now our supporters are helping us build our next fleet,” said Robertson. “These new aircraft are an investment in our ability to serve the people of northern Alberta and across Western Canada for decades to come, and we’re incredibly grateful to the County of Grande Prairie for helping us get closer to our goal.”
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