STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson said the event in Regina was also about paying tribute to Rod Gantefoer who brought the air ambulances to the province a decade ago.
The last three letters of the aircraft’s official registration, C-GFRG, stand for “founder Rod Gantefoer.”
“Rod has done so much for the thousands of patients we’ve helped across Saskatchewan since 2012,” Robertson said in a statement.
“We’re thrilled that the new aircraft named after him will help us fight for the lives of thousands more patients for decades to come.”
Gantefoer volunteered to chair fundraising efforts to build a heliport at the hospital in his hometown of Melfort, Sask., where a similar event was held in his honour on Monday.
The aircraft welcomed on Tuesday is the fifth of 10 helicopters needed to replace the air ambulance’s fleet across Western Canada, according to STARS. In 2018, its multi-year Keep the Fight in Flight capital campaign was launched to renew an aging fleet at a cost of $13 million per helicopter.
The Saskatchewan government announced in December 2018 its commitment to fund the first of STARS’ new fleet in the province. Since that time, STARS has flown hundreds of missions to transport ill or injured patients to hospital from the Saskatoon base with the province’s first new aircraft.
While millions of dollars remain to be raised, STARS hopes to wrap up its campaign by the end of 2021.
“Today is about bringing us another step closer to making our fleet renewal program a reality,” Robertson said in a press release.
“We’re so grateful to our donors for helping us make a generational investment in a new fleet.
“We’ve got more work ahead of us, but we’re hopeful the community will continue to support the campaign so we can reach our fundraising goal by the end of this year.”
STARS also operates from bases in Alberta and Manitoba.