New medically equipped helicopter in Manitoba first of STARS fleet renewal

STARS Air Ambulance added a brand new helicopter to its fleet in Manitoba, the latest to replace the fleet across Western Canada.

On Tuesday, the air ambulance provider unveiled its new Airbus H145 helicopter at the STARS base in Winnipeg. The new medically equipped aircraft will take to the sky later this fall.

The organization said while the renewal of its fleet is an ambitious project, it is needed given the current fleet is around 36 years old.

In 2018, STARS began its Fight in Flight capital campaign to renew its aging fleet of aircraft with new medically equipped helicopters, each one costing $13 million.

However, Andrea Robertson, the president and CEO of STARS, said moving towards a new fleet of a single type of helicopter brings with it savings.

"The operating costs go down with a new aircraft for a period of time until the aircraft gets old and requires more parts, over decades, then the cost of the aircraft starts going up," Robertson said.

She said the new Airbus H145 helicopter will cost about a third less than the old aircraft just from operating maintenance costs.

The STARS campaign is still underway, and with $2 million yet to raise, the organization hopes to wrap up the campaign by the end of the year and have the new fleet in service across Western Canada in 2022.