The University of Mississippi Medical Center's Helicopter Flight program began operations in 1996 with a single helicopter based in Jackson. The Jackson-based AirCare 1 helicopter was joined by the Meridian-based AirCare 2 helicopter in spring 2009, and the Golden Triangle-based AirCare 3 in spring 2016. The additional helicopters allowed AirCare to expand its mission profile by transporting patients to not only UMMC, but other hospitals able to provide levels of care required by the patient's illness or injury. Scene response profile has also changed, allowing the transportation of multiple patients from a single location. Since the program's inception, AirCare teams have safely transported over 18,000 adults, pediatric and neonatal patients over 2 million miles without any FAA-reportable accidents.
UMMC's aircraft are assets of the state and are operated under single-pilot Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), meaning the pilot may be able to complete flight requests during some marginal weather conditions. All UMMC aircraft have autopilot systems, color weather radar and anti-collision instruments to increase patient and flight crew safety. Heating and air-conditioning systems are present on all UMMC aircraft. Night vision goggles, used for all night operations, allow the crew to see potential obstacles in the dark more easily. The helicopters are operated by PHI Air Medical, LLC, a FAA Part 135 certificate holder.
Medical flight crews consist of highly trained critical care nurses and paramedics. The UMMC neonatal transport team is the only neonatal flight team in Mississippi and works in close cooperation with the medical flight crew to quickly transport the smallest, ill babies to the only Level 4 neonatal intensive care unit in the state. The relationship allows AirCare the opportunity to help anyone - adult, pediatric and neonate - access specialized care.
All UMMC flight nurses hold a minimum of one national certification such as Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN), or Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN.)
All UMMC flight paramedics are nationally registered; and many hold distinctions in areas such as Flight Paramedic-Certificate (FP-C) and Mississippi Critical Care Paramedics (MS-CCP) licensure in addition to other required certifications. All members are actively involved in prehospital, hospital and regional staff education.
All UMMC aircraft have two units of O-negative blood and fresh plasma on board. Additional medical capabilities include the initiation and maintenance of peripheral arterial lines and chest tubes. Capnography monitoring is routine in all intubated patients. In-flight ultrasound exams are used in flight for FAST exam's (Focused Assessment with Sonography in Trauma). Portable blood analyzers (iSTAT) are utilized for point-of-care testing.
Coordination of flight requests and aircraft communications are available thru Mississippi MED-COM located on the campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. MED-COM is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with experienced paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
The transport program is accredited by Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Services (CAMTS).