STARS Air Ambulance has moved its fastest helicopter from Calgary to Edmonton, partly in an effort to save money in challenging economic times. All flights out of the Calgary base now use one of two older helicopters. STARS says the decision to stop flying one of each out of Calgary was mostly made to reduce risk.
Officials said it’s challenging for pilots to switch back and forth between two aircraft with different technology, plus it saves about $500,000 on training and maintenance costs.
STARS officials said the decision to base both newer helicopters in Edmonton was also because of geography and reach, as there are more remote missions in northern Alberta than in the southern part of the province.
In addition, STARS training captains–who have the most experience flying the newer helicopters operationally–are based in Alberta’s capital.
The new helicopter was purchased with money raised in a capital campaign, not through the STARS lottery. Officials acknowledge that moving the newer aircraft to Edmonton could raise questions for its donors. James Stauch, Director of the MRU Institute for Community Prosperity tells Global News, “There may be a perception that the charity is only based in their community. The people who are being injured in rural areas and remote areas, that’s not where the donors are, so when you make a gift to STARS you have to understand all that.”
STARS says while the older helicopters are slightly slower, the difference in flying times is almost negligible and offset by less logistical decision-making required at deployment.
The medical care provided on board both types of helicopters is identical, STARS said.
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