STARS air ambulance adds new helicopter to fleet

The STARS air ambulance has announced another helicopter that’s been added to their fleet. It’s the fifth of 10 medically equipped aircraft that will compose a new, upgraded fleet.

New helicopter cost about $13M, 5th of 10 needed to replace fleet in Western Canada

The STARS air ambulance service has unveiled its second Saskatchewan helicopter (Matt Duguid/CBC)

The air ambulance service that flies over Saskatchewan has added a new helicopter to its fleet, with a nod to Rod Gantefoer, the former Saskatchewan politician who was key in establishing the service in the province.

STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service) Air Ambulance officially unveiled the new Airbus H145 helicopter in Regina on Tuesday, though it actually entered service in the province weeks ago — and had actually been unveiled to the public a day earlier in Melfort, Gantefoer's hometown.

On the side of the new helicopter, just below the door to the cockpit, is the registration "C-GFRG." The last three letters stand for "founder Rod Gantefoer."

"It's not about the people that are providing the service, it's about the people they're providing services to, or for," said Gantefoer, who was the Melfort area's MLA from 1995 to 2011 and served as finance minister.

Among those speaking at the unveiling of a new helicopter for STARS Air Ambulance in Regina on Tuesday was Rod Gantefoer. The former provincial cabinet minister was involved in bringing STARS to Saskatchewan. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

Influenced by a rescue in Alberta that he witnessed, he returned to Saskatchewan with the hopes of bringing a similar service here.

Carrie Derin thanked him for his efforts in a speech, recounting some recent milestones in her life she may have missed had she not been rescued by STARS after a life-threatening ATV accident in 2012.

"We've been fortunate to witness our oldest daughter graduate high school and move into adulthood, teach our youngest to drive.… My husband and I will be celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary this fall," Derin said.

"These are all firsts that I may have missed had it not been for STARS."

The helicopter unveiled in Saskatchewan this week is the fifth of 10 medically equipped helicopters needed to replace the air ambulance's fleet across Western Canada, STARS said.

The new fleet of helicopters will replace two other models of aircraft that STARS says are becoming outdated.

The Airbus was the most recent investment in the service's upgraded fleet, at a cost of about $13 million per aircraft.

The last two letters on the aircraft ID, RD, refers to Rod Gantefoer, the former Saskatchewan politician who was involved in the creation of STARS in the province. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

In 2018, the Saskatchewan government announced $13 million in funding for the new fleet. In 2019, the federal budget allocated another $65 million for STARS, which provides air ambulance services in Alberta, Manitoba and parts of British Columbia, as well as Saskatchewan.