STARS unveils new AW139

The Star Phoenix
July 23, 2014
By The Star Phoenix
July 23, 2014, Saskatoon - Barrie Tolmie couldn’t contain his excitement about STARS Air Ambulance’s new helicopter. “Compared to what we’ve been flying before, this helicopter is just absolutely phenomenal,” the pilot said, with the enthusiasm of a teenager showing off a new hotrod.

“I don’t know how to explain it. It’s cool. It’s like having a brand new vehicle with state of the art technology in it.”

The $16-million AW139, paid for by a donation from PotashCorp, was officially unveiled Tuesday in a ceremony at the STARS hangar, located near the Saskatoon airport.

The new chopper is about one-and-a-half times larger than STARS’ current BK117, can travel faster and further on a tank of gas and carries state-of-the-art autopilot technology.

It isn’t taking patients quite yet. The pilots need to be trained on the new gear, which Tolmie said should be done near the end of September.

“At the end of the day, it flies like a helicopter,” he said.

Tanice Makie knows how important STARS can be. If the service hadn’t existed in Calgary ten years ago, she wouldn’t be alive today, she said.

Mackie, who now lives in Saskatoon, was driving to her home in Calgary when a truck swerved into her lane and smashed into her driver’s side door. Her neck and back were broken in six places, she had a severe traumatic brain injury and she lost 60 per cent of her blood.

Luckily, an off-duty EMT was driving by and had the number for STARS on his phone, Mackie said.

“I definitely would have bled out if I hadn’t got the help from STARS.”

Mackie was invited to Tuesday’s ceremony to talk about the importance of the service..

“It’s great to know they’re getting more equipment so they can help more people, because there’s a lot of rural accidents in a province like Saskatchewan, so there’s a lot of people they can help,” she said.

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