While our red helicopter is STARS’ most recognizable tool, it’s the crew in engineering who keep the aircraft mission-ready for when the call comes to help save a life.
“The helicopter is our boss,” said Regan Nesbit, who has been an engineer with the STARS Winnipeg base since 2012.
Much like your family’s vehicle, helicopters require upkeep. “The more the aircraft flies the more maintenance is required,” said Nesbit.
While keeping the helicopter mission ready is important, Nesbit says that safety is everyone’s primary focus at STARS.
“The flight crew is like family,” said Nesbit. “In many ways we are responsible for their safety, and also the safety of the patients, members of the public and emergency responders on the ground.”
The engineering team and the work they perform is never far from the mind of Dwight Webb, director of maintenance for STARS. Webb’s role is to oversee the more than 20 aircraft maintenance engineers who “turn wrench” on the fleet of 11 STARS helicopters at our bases across Western Canada.
To perform their duties, engineers go through extensive education and hands-on training.
“They start at a trade school for two years and then do 18 to 20 months of apprenticeship,” said Webb. “After that, it’s about 48 months of apprentice work to gain your certification as an aircraft maintenance engineer.”
The team works across STARS’ six bases, with engineers on-call 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Daytime shifts may entail preventative maintenance to keep the aircraft shipshape or completing repair work to resolve issues reported by the pilots. They are even called upon to affix donor logos to the helicopters from time to time.
According to Webb, performing the work in-house is more cost-effective, and ensures STARS can maintain around-the-clock coverage and retain skilled staff.
Shane Smith has been an engineer in Winnipeg since 2011 and says no two days are alike. He, too, says safety is his primary focus.
“As engineers we really need a full understanding of how the aircraft works and need to be involved in every part of it,” said Smith. “Everything requires planning – from an oil change to something more in-depth like an engine replacement; and all this has to be done in a timely fashion while keeping safety first and foremost.”
Although they are spread out across Western Canada, our engineers share the same sense of pride in their work.
“We work as one big team,” said Smith. “Each time someone sees the red helicopter in the sky an aircraft maintenance engineer has done his or her job.”