5-Jul-2021 Source: STARS
Together with patients, crew, community supporters and government officials, STARS officially welcomed its newest Airbus H145 helicopter to Regina and the province. The aircraft, which entered service in Saskatchewan weeks ago, is the fifth of ten helicopters needed to replace the air ambulance’s fleet across Western Canada.
“Today is about bringing us another step closer to making our fleet renewal program a reality,” said STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson. “It is also about paying tribute to the man who brought STARS to Saskatchewan and has since helped it flourish.”
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.
Gantefoer was instrumental in establishing STARS’ operations in the province a decade ago and led the STARS Foundation in Saskatchewan for a number of years. Most recently he volunteered to chair fundraising efforts to build a heliport at the hospital in his hometown of Melfort, where a similar event was held yesterday in his honour.
“Rod has done so much for the thousands of patients we’ve helped across Saskatchewan since 2012,” said 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.”
One such patient was at today’s event, thanking Gantefoer for making STARS possible. Regina resident Carrie Derin was cared for and flown by STARS after being critically injured in an ATV incident in 2012.
“When I see that red helicopter in the sky, I know that it’s holding angels and carrying the best gift of all — life,” said Derin. “We’re lucky to have STARS in Saskatchewan.”
Also welcoming the new aircraft and recognizing Mr. Gantefoer were Hon. Paul Merriman, Minister of Health and Hon. Everett Hindley, Minister Responsible for Rural and Remote Health. The Government of Saskatchewan announced in December 2018 its commitment to fund the first of STARS’ new fleet in the province.
“For nearly a decade, STARS has played an integral role in helping save the lives of Saskatchewan residents,” said Minister of Health Paul Merriman.
“STARS will continue to be a vital part of emergency health care services in our province. With a renewed fleet of helicopters comes a renewed feeling of comfort, knowing our health and safety are in very capable hands with STARS.”
Fleet renewal important for STARS’ sustainability
In 2018, STARS unveiled its multi-year Keep the Fight in Flight capital campaign to renew its fleet of BK117 and AW139 aircraft with new, medically-equipped Airbus H145 helicopters, at a cost of CAD $13 million each.
Thanks to government, community and corporate support, the not-for-profit charity began taking delivery of the state-of-the-art H145 helicopters in 2019. Since that time, STARS has flown hundreds of missions from its Saskatoon base with its first new aircraft in Saskatchewan, named “LLS” as a nod to “Land of Living Skies.”
Although it has millions of dollars left to raise, STARS hopes to wrap up its ambitious fundraising campaign by the end of the year and see the remainder of the new fleet enter service across Western Canada through 2022.
“We’re so grateful to our donors for helping us make a generational investment in a new fleet,” said Robertson. “We’ve got more work ahead of us, but we’re hopeful the community will continue to support the campaign so we can reach our fundraising goal by the end of this year.”