Lifesaving new arrival welcomed to Gamston as children’s charity touches down
There was a special arrival at Gamston Airport when the national Children’s Air Ambulance (TCAA) charity landed at its new designated airbase from where it will launch vital missions to help save young lives.
The Children’s Air Ambulance, which provides the only intensive care helicopters in the country dedicated to transferring critically ill babies and children, at a high and safe speed, from local hospitals to specialist paediatric and neonatal treatment centres across the UK, had been looking for a new base in the north of England following the recent closure of Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
So, to celebrate its upcoming 10th birthday, the vital service moved into its new home at Thatcham Research’s Gamston vehicle testing facility and airfield in Nottinghamshire.
Thatcham Research, the only ‘not for profit’, an insurer-funded vehicle research organisation in the UK, acquired its Gamston site – which now operates as a world-leading vehicle testing facility, whilst maintaining aviation – in 2022.
Richard Billyeald, Thatcham Research Chief Technical Officer and a Director of Gamston Aviation Ltd, is pleased to welcome TCAA and its vibrant green AgustaWestland 169 helicopter to its new home.
“I’m delighted we’ve been able to offer the Children’s Air Ambulance a fantastic new base with us in Nottinghamshire. We’re always pleased to welcome new tenants to the airfield, which enjoys a geographically strong location as a hub that can serve the north of England, and we look forward to working closely with TCAA to support their lifesaving work,” said Richard.
Evangalene Mcleod, Gamston Aviation’s Airport Manager, added: “Our site has everything TCAA needs to fulfil its operational commitments and I look forward to working with the team as they get what is essentially a mobile intensive care unit for children off the ground and en route to its next destination as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
The Children’s Air Ambulance flew its first mission in May 2013 and provides its services to the NHS free of charge. It works with 11 clinical partner teams across the UK to ensure the high-speed transfer of critically ill babies and children into specialist care. Each mission costs an average of £3,500 and is funded solely by generous public donations, as it undertakes patient transfers four times faster than they would be by road.
The charity currently flies two new helicopters; one is now out of Gamston, and the other is based at London Oxford Airport to serve the south of England. Both helicopters carry state-of-the-art medical equipment onboard, including – recently launched – bespoke incubators, and were the first in the UK to provide ECMO (Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation) functionality during transfers.
The ECMO system is like a heart and lung bypass machine and is used to temporarily provide oxygen to a child when their heart and/or lungs are not working effectively, and normal intensive care is failing – a pioneering capability already used by a critically ill child in their moment of need.
Alfie Daly, Head of Operations for the Children’s Air Ambulance, said: “We are so pleased to be operating our vital service from our new base at Gamston Airport. The airport closure at Doncaster escalated the need for a new site to operate from, and the team at TCAA are grateful to the landlords at Gamston for acting so quickly and professionally in accommodating TCAA’s new northern base.
“This year has already seen our service making further pioneering developments since we launched 10 years ago, making the aircraft second to none in the provision of paediatric and neonatal transfers. We look forward to continuing to assist specialist NHS transport teams during lifesaving flights from our new base.”