air ambulance, uk, TCAA, EMS, neoantal, paediatric, aviation, avionics, DZMx, Flightcell

Flightcell DZMx helping the UK’s critically ill babies and children

By Nigel Lemon

The Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) is a national service which is changing the face of paediatric and neonatal aeromedical transfers through the high-speed transfer of critically ill babies and children from one hospital to another for specialist care.

Two years ago, the charity introduced two new dedicated state-of-the-art AW169 helicopters equipped with bespoke modified interiors, providing a flying intensive care unit for babies and children.

The charity works with 10 NHS paediatric & neonatal retrieval teams across the UK, enabling them to bring their specialist equipment on board to safely transfer their patients from one hospital to another. If a child is too sick to fly then TCAA can fly a specialist team directly to them.

All transfers of critically ill babies and children carry an inherent risk – the longer a child is out of the hospital, the greater that risk. With their ability to fly approximately four times faster than a land ambulance, they can minimise travel times.

These helicopters operate 19 hours a day from two bases, one in the north of England at Doncaster Airport and the other in the south at Oxford airport. Flights are managed by the charity’s airdesk team which co-ordinates between the helicopter pilots, landing sites, NHS specialist retrieval teams and hospitals.

Both helicopters are equipped with the Flightcell DZMx. Its satcom capability enables pilots to message the airdesk to confirm their helicopters’ progress and its GPS tracking system enables the airdesk team to monitor the position of the aircraft so they can provide real-time updates to the hospitals and make sure they are ready to receive the children as soon as they arrive.

In addition to this, the satcom is wired directly into the helicopter’s audio system so the medical teams can pass on vital information about their patient’s condition ahead of their arrival.

Richard Clayton, the Charity’s Director of Operations, explained: “Keeping track of the helicopters and updating the hospitals is a really important part of what we do. We fly much longer sectors than normal emergency air ambulances and often across parts of the country where satcom is the only reliable means of communication for our medical teams. We specified the Flightcell DZMx with the new helicopters due to its versatility, and we have not been disappointed by the vital role that it plays every day in helping us safely transport critically ill children and babies to where they need to be”.

The charity receives no government funding and relies entirely on voluntary donations to raise the £3,500 needed for every mission. Valuable support from corporates or individuals will help to keep hope alive for young patients and their families.

Anyone wishing to find out more about the lifesaving work of the charity can call 0300 3045 999 or visit