Saskatchewan Air Ambulance is the oldest, non-military, government air ambulance service in the world, and 2021 marks 75 years of doing this vital work. In 1946, the first flight took off from its original home base in Regina to Liberty to provide care to a woman suffering from diabetes-related complications. Since those early days, Saskatchewan Air Ambulance has transported more than 71,000 people.
The service now has more than 70 pilots, aircraft engineers, flight nurses, flight paramedics and administrative staff who are dedicated to providing medevac services to the people of Saskatchewan. From transporting critical patients in northern communities to handling facility transfers for high risk patients – both inside and outside of the province – Air Ambulance does it all.
It’s easy to take their modern medical equipment and tools for granted, but Air Ambulance was seen as a marvel of hope for remote communities in the 1940s. Back then, trains ran on limited schedules, highways were rough, and winters could mean total isolation during emergencies. Back then, the Norseman-brand planes flew at 240 km/hr. By comparison, today’s King Air 200 fleet cruises at 500 km/hr in all weather conditions anywhere in the province without refuelling.
What hasn’t changed over 75 years is the resolve and dedication of Air Ambulance staff. Crews are available 24 hours a day and they service every corner of the province from their base in Saskatoon at John G. Diefenbaker International Airport. From Estevan and Frontier to Stony Rapids and Uranium City, Air Ambulance provides a lifeline for people who need it most. The four modern King Air planes on call are able to fly anywhere in North America.
The service currently averages about 110 flights per month, carrying patients inside and outside the province. Two out of three patient transports are triaged as urgent or emergent requiring critical care, meaning they are in the highest need when Air Ambulance arrives. Medical crews are experienced and highly trained to provide critical care for any patient.
Air Ambulance also works closely with the neonatal transport teams in Regina and Saskatoon and the pediatric transport team in Saskatoon. Since the beginning, Air Ambulance has played a major role in helping our youngest citizens. In 1948, the first baby was delivered aboard an Air Ambulance plane between Rose Valley and Wadena. The family was so thankful, they named their baby boy after the pilot who was flying the aircraft.
Our Stories will celebrate the history of this important provincial service and the staff who continue to make it possible. Each day this week, we will highlight staff and important moments in the Saskatchewan Air Ambulance legacy.
All photography and video done for this project followed COVID-19 safety procedures, or were taken prior to COVID-19. Minimal staff were present during filming and all wore masks whenever possible. Maskless photos and videos were taken in a large, well-ventilated space or at a distance with telephoto lenses. Saskatchewan Air Ambulance also does regular sanitation before and after equipment is used.