It is often said around STARS that it takes a community of allies to save a life. Over the past several months, it has become apparent that it takes a community of crew to usher a new helicopter into the fleet.
Implementing a new aircraft type – especially the first aircraft – involves a detailed and complicated process, with significant preparation, training and evaluation before it can proficiently fly critical care missions.
Our pilots have trained on simulators and now need time to fly the real aircraft in real conditions.
Our air medical crew must orient themselves to a new medical interior environment and new protocols for transferring the patient into and out of the helicopter.
And our allies in hospitals and in rural communities need to be briefed on the requirements and safety protocols related to the new helicopter.
All of this work must be done as we continue to operate our existing fleet.
“While we are excited to start transporting and caring for patients in our new helicopter, we will only do so once we are satisfied our crew members are ready and all necessary procedures and processes are in place,” said Scott Young, STARS vice-president, operational and strategic initiatives.
Since the fall issue of Horizons, the first two Airbus H145 aircraft in STARS’ new fleet have arrived in Canada in pieces, been assembled, had the medical interiors installed, been disassembled, painted, assembled again, tested, certified, delivered and ultimately unveiled to guests and media in Calgary at a special event in April.
Along the way, representatives from all departments in our fleet implementation team travelled to the Airbus factory in Fort Erie, ON to monitor progress, familiarize themselves with the new aircraft, and get a head-start on crew training videos.
Many of those same STARS crew members were also part of the technical acceptance process, where the aircraft and its components were meticulously examined, tested and verified to be complete and up to our specifications. Any needed adjustments were made, the helicopters received a final inspection, and they were then ready to make the trek west to Calgary for delivery to STARS.
The new H145s bring cutting-edge technology to the pilots and the medical crew. For the pilots, some of the highlights include a superior autopilot program, increased field of view, and enhanced terrain and collision avoidance warning systems.
“It is the most modern technology you can probably get in a helicopter,” said STARS Capt. John Carson.
On the medical front, some of the tools available in the new helicopters include the ability to provide real-time data to physicians and enhanced mounting capabilities
for monitoring equipment.
“We can mount the equipment on the ceiling or on a bridge that goes over the patient’s body” said STARS flight paramedic Greg Barton. “This allows us to configure it in a way that suits us so we can ultimately care for the patient better.”
The operational readiness team in Calgary has scheduled all training and orientation processes leading up to the first H145 flying this summer.
STARS’ third new H145 recently arrived in Fort Erie, ON from Germany. It will have its radios and lighting systems installed, its paint applied, and then be thoroughly tested and prepared for its final delivery this summer.
Attention has recently turned to Saskatoon for implementation and operational readiness, as that base prepares to accept the third new aircraft this summer with their first H145 mission sometime this fall.
“STARS air ambulance has set a fantastic record and example for EMS operations, not only in Western Canada but across the country,” said Romain Trapp, president
of Airbus Helicopters Canada. “We thank STARS for entrusting Airbus and the H145 to support their life-saving operations. We look forward to accompanying STARS on its journey to serve patients for generations to come.”
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