The STARS fleet currently consists of seven Eurocopter BK117 helicopters and one AW139 helicopter. At any given time, one helicopter is the primary, in-service aircraft at each of our bases. Additional helicopters are being brought online to support our operations.
One helicopter serves as a back-up and support aircraft. This aircraft may be put into use when one of the primary helicopters is out of service for maintenance or repair. In addition, it plays a significant role in training activities and community outreach events.
On a mission, the STARS helicopter is always staffed with a two pilots and the air medical crew. Each helicopter is equipped to transport one critically injured patient or two non-critical patients.
Ideally, the BK117 helicopter flies to a hospital or incident scene and returns without refueling. In special emergency situations, STARS will fly beyond this refueling radius in order to assist with patient care and transport. In these situations, STARS has a network of fuel caches available to allow the helicopter to refuel as needed.
Night Vision Goggles (NVG)
In 2003, STARS flew a mission to carry a patient from southeastern Alberta to Calgary utilizing Night Vision Goggle (NVG) technology. This marked the first time that a civilian air carrier made use of NVG technology in Canada. STARS continues to employ this cutting-edge technology to enable better care for our patients.
The mountains west of Calgary, for example, are 11,000 to 12,000 feet high and were previously inaccessible for emergency response by our teams due to night flight restrictions within mountainous terrain. Now, with NVGs, STARS has special permission to venture into this rugged territory on carefully pre-planned routes that are programmed into the aircraft GPS. Flights at night using night vision goggles is an integral part of the Pilot training program at STARS.
The AgustaWestland AW139
We recently celebrated the arrival of two new high-performance aircrafts, the AgustaWestland AW139. These aircrafts will be able to fly further than our BK117 helicopters and can travel approximately 25 per cent faster. The AW139 offers a more spacious medical interior that will allow greater access when carrying two patients. As well, de-icing technology built into the aircraft will allow us to operate in a wider range of adverse weather conditions.
Our first AW139, based in Edmonton, became operational in late 2013. The second aircraft, based in Calgary, is currently undergoing aviation and medical crew orientation and training in order to integrate it into our operations. This aircraft is anticipated to be operational in early 2014.