Its name derives from ancient Greek mythology, but on Thursday, it came to life.
Announced in 2019 in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, the Pegasus Project by STARS Air Ambulance kicked off in Humboldt with an initiative to raise funds for a new fleet of helicopters.
“In Saskatchewan, three (helicopters) is what we need to serve from our two bases,” said Mark Oddan, the senior communications officer of STARS.
“These helicopters are state of the art. They are really a new version of the one that we’ve been flying for 35 years, which has been a very reliable workhorse. But like any type of vehicle, they’re getting old, and the manufacturer is no longer making them and parts are very hard to come by. So they need to be replaced.”
As part of the Pegasus Project, a 1968 Ford Mustang 427 coupe was custom-built to be featured as a charitable auction vehicle at the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz. Proceeds from the one-of-a-kind car will be donated back to STARS.
“In the collectors’ world, the Mustang is one of the most-collected vehicles,” Oddan said. “What is so amazing is this vehicle is made right here in Saskatchewan and it is literally built from the ground up. It looks like a classic 1968 car but it has all of the modern touches, of course.”
The project’s summer road show will travel to 34 communities across Saskatchewan.
“This really is a community-led project and everyone is pitching in,” Oddan said. “Throughout it all, we will be selling swag, caps and shirts and the like, and it will look different in each place.
“But at the end of it, we’re really hopeful that it will just result in more support for the project and more support for our fleet renewal efforts.”
The name of the Pegasus Project was derived from three important elements: The winged mythological horse, the wings on a helicopter for STARS, and the Mustang.
“(The project) is a prime example of Saskatchewan spirit, vision, ingenuity and generosity,” Oddan said. “It was a group of community and business leaders who are also automotive enthusiasts, who really care about people living, working and playing in Saskatchewan, and also about critical care that’s provided by the entire health system, by STARS and our partners in the chain of survival.
“I think there is a real need to think of what is something great that can be done after such a devastating incident (like the Broncos crash).”
To date, the project has raised more than $2 million.
“A portion of (the funds) will be given back to the local first responders in recognition of the great work they do, and how STARS could not do what we do without our partners locally,” Oddan said.
“It’s just such a great tale of Saskatchewan spirit, and pitching in together, giving to a cause and helping out everyone in the community. We’re just so grateful to be the recipient of that support and it’s so great to be involved with an incredible project.”
The new STARS helicopters have cutting-edge technology for the pilots in the front, a custom medical interior in the back to improve patient care, and other equipment.
“We often say our STARS helicopters are like a flying ICU,” Oddan said. “You of course have heart monitors and IV lines for medications, but also there are many diagnostic tools: The ability to do ultrasound and to give a blood transfusion.
“So a new fleet sets us up to be able to serve people across Saskatchewan for generations.”
A fully medically equipped STARS helicopter costs $13 million.
To learn more or donate, visit the Pegasus Project website.