CALGARY- Some Alberta pilots got to show off their new toy on Friday: a state of the art helicopter that just so happens to also save lives.
STARS newest air ambulance is bigger and faster than the others in its fleet. But more importantly, the AW139 is able to fly in bad weather.
“It’s difficult. We know that there’s someone who needs us, but it’s safety first,” says founder Gregory Powell, of the limitations they have faced in the past.
The new chopper automatically senses ice buildup, and cues the pilot to turn on a deicing system.
“We’ve been doing some training and flown it into the mountainous regions in the last couple weeks under some pretty high winds, and you can feel that it’s quite stable,” pilot Greg Curtis explains. “On a lot of these wintry days where we have ice in the forecast and it’s moderate or light icing, we’ll be able to accomplish a lot of missions. So that’s going to be a big plus to us.”
The helicopters can fly up to 300 km/h, and also offer more room to maneuver than the BK117s they have been using.
“In our current set up, we can’t move our seats at all,” says flight paramedic Greg Barton. “So here, you can move your seat and have great access to the patient.”
The AW139s cost $16 million—a solid investment for the peace of mind knowing an experienced medical team is only a short flight away.