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Travis County's $34 Million STAR Flight Contract Starts a Fight

— Losing bidder Airbus Helicopters Inc. is appealing the county’s decision.

AUSTIN, TX  — The helicopter company that lost out on a $34 million bid to replace Travis County’s STAR Flight fleet, Airbus Helicopters, is protesting the decision, arguing the winning bid was more expensive and included aircraft functions that have not been federally certified.

Travis County has stood by its choice of AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp. for the three helicopters to be used for emergency medical transportation, search-and-rescue operations and fire suppression. The deal may include Travis County getting trade-in credit for three of its helicopters; a fourth will be sold using a broker.

Airbus Helicopters Inc., which lost the bid, initially filed its protest Oct. 19. The county rejected it Oct. 30.

Airbus challenged that decision Nov. 8 and will have a chance to make a last-ditch appeal to the Commissioners Court during a hearing, which will likely be scheduled in January, county officials said.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said she doesn’t believe that the appeal will cause any significant delays in the county receiving the helicopters.

Airbus argues that it was the better choice in part because its offering price was lower than AgustaWestland’s — $21,681,433 compared with $23,547,831 — after accounting for the trade-in values each company offered for Travis County’s old helicopters. (Airbus’ H145 aircraft were more expensive, but its trade-in offer was higher.)

The company writes that its spare parts and tools cost is lower because the county already has much of what it needs from its current fleet of EC145 helicopters that also came from Airbus. Its operating and maintenance costs are also lower, Airbus wrote.

Airbus also argues that the county should have taken into account that certain functions of AgustaWestland’s AW169 aircraft, such as the interior setup for EMS use and the filtration system to keep particles out of the engine, are not certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Airbus contends that without government-validated data, the county could not have accurately judged performance measures, causing “significant risks.”


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Troy Shaffer
Troy Shaffer

About the Author: Troy is an Air Medical Career Expert passionate about a team approach to improving air medical safety from the ground up. Troy is a former Army medic, Army pilot, Coast Guard pilot and EMS pilot. Troy has taught hundreds of wannabe flight medics, flight nurses and EMS pilots the exact steps needed to launch air medical careers.

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