Helicopter and Plane Will Serve Central Coast, Elsewhere in State

2013-01-26T00:10:00Z CalSTAR debutes new air ambulancesBy Samantha Yale Scroggin / Staff Writer / sscroggin@santamariatimes.com Santa Maria Times

Central Coast residents had the opportunity Friday night to check out two new air ambulances that recently started serving the area and have the capability to whisk them to safety in an emergency.

The California Shock Trauma Air Rescue (CalSTAR) helicopter and airplane were unveiled at a public event at the Central Coast Jet Center, located at the Santa Maria Public Airport.

The rain appeared to have discouraged many from turning out for the unveiling Friday evening, but still the aircraft and their crews were on hand.

The EC135 helicopter is stationed at the Santa Maria airport, and exclusively serves the Central Coast, said Mike Nichols, CalSTAR director of development and outreach.  The Super King Air B200 airplane, however, will fly throughout the state, according to Nichols.  “This is our first opportunity to bring it down and show it off to our EMS partners and the general public,” he explained.  Nichols said the helicopter went into service in Santa Maria in December, and the airplane has been in use since last summer.

The Central Coast was the first area in the state to receive a new helicopter that is expected to be one of eight new helicopter ambulances CalSTAR will be obtaining, Nichols said.  “It was sort of a matter of timing,” he said, noting that the Central Coast had one of the oldest helicopters in the fleet and the features of the EC135 fit the Central Coast needs and terrain.

The Santa Maria airport is only home base to the one CalSTAR helicopter, Nichols said, but a CalSTAR helicopter from Salinas can be called as backup if necessary for medical transport.

In addition, a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department helicopter is able to assistant with emergency calls if needed.

The Super King Air B200 has been busy, according to Nichols, “probably averaging about a flight a day.”  The airplane is the only one of its kind CalSTAR currently has in regular use, although the agency has a couple of older backup planes, according to Nichols.

Nichols said the Super King exceeds the older planes in terms of range and power.  “It really is sort of proven,” he added.  Nichols said the airplane is called in when CalSTAR needs to transport patients long distances.

January 26, 2013 By Samantha Yale Scroggin / Staff Writer / sscroggin@santamariatimes.com