Travis County, Texas, will soon upgrade its emergency response helicopters, STAR Flight, after county commissioners voted to approve roughly $30 million to replace its aging fleet.
STAR Flight is used to provide emergency rescue from accidents and trauma scenes not easily accessible by vehicles, in addition to fire suppression, flood rescue, search-and-rescue missions and inter-facility patient transport. The current fleet consists of two 2005 models, one 2009 model, and a refurbished Vietnam-era UH-1/ “Huey.”
As part of the fleet replacement, the program will downgrade from four helicopters to three. Commissioners noted that having a mixed fleet requires separate maintenance and pilot training.
The new models will be designed for multi-missions, including fire, EMS, and search-and-rescue. All aircraft will have a 300-gallon water dropping capacity, the ability to travel longer distances without refueling, and can transport fire crews.
Funding for the purchase of the three new helicopters will be subsidized by the sale of the older models, estimated at around $10 million, and a $10 million donation from the Seton Family of Hospitals, over a five-year period. The rest of the of the money will come from county funds.
In addition to purchasing newer models, additional staffing will be added to make two rescue helicopters available 24 hours a day.