STARS Air Ambulance is set to begin the process of replacing its aging fleet of helicopters in Alberta thanks to a $13 million donation from the province announced Saturday.

“It’s an investment in making sure that all Albertans, no matter where you are, when you live, work, and play, you have access to quality public healthcare and STARS is a big partner for us in that,” said Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.

The money will be used to buy a brand new H145 helicopter, which STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson says should be in the air within months.

“We will be receiving new aircraft into Calgary in April,” she said.

“We won’t be flying it right away, we’ve got to train on it, we need to familiarize our crew with it, so that will take us a few months. We’ll be looking after patients in that aircraft during the summer.”

The new machine will replace one of five existing BK117 helicopters currently in use by STARS in Alberta, which have been designated as a legacy aircraft — meaning they are becoming increasingly difficult to service and find replacement parts.

“The H145 is actually a brand new, updated version of our BK117 fleet,” said Robertson.

“Tried and trusted, we’ve flown that aircraft for 34 years so we know the company very well, we know the aircraft very well.”

Fundraising continues to replace the remaining machines.

“We know it will take us years, likely, to actually convert the entire fleet,” said Robertson.

“We’re hoping to be done in three to five years. We’ve got a very mindful, planned process on bringing the aircraft in.”

STARS will sell the old fleet once they are replaced, which Robertson said will hopefully cover the cost of two of the new machines.

The Airbus H145 was chosen to replace the STARS Air Ambulance fleet. (CNW Group/Airbus)

With bases in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie, STARS flew 1,450 missions last year. More than 40,000 missions have been flown since STARS began in 1985.



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