Together with patients, crew and supporters, STARS recently welcomed its first new Airbus H145 helicopter to Manitoba. The aircraft, which will fly missions from STARS’ Winnipeg base, is the latest helicopter to join STARS as part of a program to replace and renew the air ambulance provider’s fleet across Western Canada.

“Today is about bringing us one step closer to making our fleet renewal program a reality,” said STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson. “It is also about paying tribute to our community allies who began building STARS in this province ten years ago and have sustained it ever since.”

The milestone event was marked with a celebration at the STARS base in Winnipeg that included provincial government and Indigenous leaders, community partners and allies, and STARS crew and former patients.

“On behalf of the provincial government, I congratulate STARS on the arrival of their new H145 helicopter in Manitoba,” said Premier Kelvin Goertzen. “STARS has been a valued partner in the delivery of critical care in our province for a decade, and I know Manitobans will be well-served for many years to come with this new addition to STARS’ life-saving fleet.”

In honour of STARS’ commitment to Manitoba, the new H145 helicopter carries the registration mark C-FMBQ with the “MB” paying homage to its new home and the people and communities it will serve.

STARS anticipates the H145 will enter service in Manitoba skies later this fall.

Fleet renewal necessary 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.

“The bulk of our aging fleet are no longer being built and are becoming costlier to maintain,” said Robertson. “Additionally, 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 Airbus 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.

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 and has since flown hundreds of life-saving missions in the new aircraft from other bases.

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.

Capital campaign receives boost

The event included the announcement of two significant gifts to the fleet renewal campaign: a $500,000 gift from the Kinsmen Club of Winnipeg and a $400,000 gift from Cargill Limited.

“The Kinsmen Club of Winnipeg believes in supporting programs and projects that will make a long-lasting impact,” said Tim McKay, Vice President of Service with the Kinsmen Club of Winnipeg. “We are very proud to support this evolution of STARS in Manitoba. It will undoubtedly save lives and make a lasting, positive impact on the communities we support.”

“At Cargill the safety of others is guided by our values of putting people first and doing the right thing. Safety extends well beyond our employees to our customers and the communities where we operate,” said Jeff Vassart, President, Cargill Limited. “We are proud to support STARS and the critical emergency care they provide to rural and remote communities when it’s needed most.”

“Our supporters ride along with us on every mission, and now they are helping us build the next STARS fleet,” said Robertson. “These new aircraft are an investment in our ability to serve the people of Manitoba for decades to come, and we’re incredibly grateful to the community for helping us get closer to our goal.”