AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - The dedication of the STAR Flight hangar expansion in East Austin brought out friends and family of Kristin McLain. The building is now named for the former flight nurse who died during a rescue mission in 2015.
"Her influence and contributions will continue to shape STAR Flight for many, many, years to come, and we are thrilled to be able to honor her today so that here memory ...,” said Aviation Operations Director Chuck Spangler.
After speaking at the dedication, Spangler was still struggling to keep his emotions in check. He agreed, it was a hard day and said McLain's name will now serve as a reminder of her courage. “Every time we look up there and see Kristin's name we know this is dangerous what we do, we love to do it, we volunteer to do it, but it’s real,” said Spangler.
McLain's mother also held back tears as she spoke during the ceremony thanking those who made the day possible. "It is special, it’s definitely special, it is recognition for everything she did for the 7 years she worked here and people appreciated it,” said Betty McLain.
The hangar is home for new STAR Flight helicopters.
Two of the AW169's are already on site, a third arrives in July.
Compared to the existing fleet they are larger, can travel farther, and can carry more water to fight wildfires. "We just happen to be the first commercial user of the aircraft in the United States but there are a lot of folks out there doing what we do in Europe,” said Spangler.
The three new helicopters come with a $33 million price tag. The county had to come up with a pretty creative idea to purchase the new aircraft and keep the service in the air.
STAR Flight has sold three older helicopters, but they are in service until the crews are checked out on the new ones. It was originally estimated the trade in/resale would net only $8 million. County officials tell FOX 7 the broker was able to make a better deal providing Travis County with $14.1 million.
"It has been pretty cool, and it was touch and go because we weren't sure, the timing of the delivery of the helicopters with the delivery of our old helicopters with the new owners there were moments when we thought it wasn't going to work out, but we made every effort to make sure they would overlap and the transition was smooth, and its working,” said Travis Co. Judge Sarah Eckhardt.
The new helicopters are a continuation of a STAR Flight fleet that started in the mid 80's.
There have been different platforms and different crews. But like the team member whose name is now on the hangar, one thing remains the same. The dedication and bravery on every mission that’s flown.