July 23, 2014 3:18 pm

STARS welcomes fastest chopper to Saskatchewan fleet

STARS officially introduced its first helicopter of its kind in Saskatchewan during an unveiling ceremony.

Luke Banville / Global News

SASKATOON – Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) will soon have a new helicopter saving the lives of injured Saskatchewanians.

The AW139 helicopter was unveiled Tuesday in the new STARS hangar at John G. Diefenbaker International Airport in Saskatoon.

The state-of-the-art air ambulance is the first of its kind in Saskatchewan.

STARS says the helicopter and crew are of most benefit to patients within a one-hour flight range also known as the “golden hour”.

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“Time is the most precious thing you’ve got, you probably heard of the golden hour, that if you can get people to proper care in that time, that has a great chance of saving their lives,” said Rod Gantefoer, STARS Foundation executive VP.

The American-made chopper will enhance access to emergency pre-hospital critical care through quicker flying times and a larger medical interior.

AW139s can fly up to 300 kilometres an hour depending on its load and the weather. STARS’ existing BK117 helicopters travel at around 225 km/h.

Funding for the new $16-million air ambulance was provided by PotashCorp.

“PotashCorp has helped us realize our vision of bringing this new helicopter and hangar, valued at $27 million, to the people of this province,” said Andrea Robertson, STARS president and CEO.

“PotashCorp’s commitment is the largest in STARS’ history.”

STARS is currently training pilots on the AW139 as well as rural emergency services in communities served by the Saskatoon base.

The new helicopter is expected to perform its first mission by early fall.

The current fleet of STARS helicopters consists of eight BK117s and three AW139s, operating out of six bases across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

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