It’s a bird....it’s a plane....it’s a....flying eye hospital?
For people who need aid—vital medical help, relief services, and transportation—humanitarian flights can mean survival. The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital is one such example of humanitarian flight.
Outfitted with exam and treatment rooms, an operating center, and classrooms, the Flying Eye Hospital airplane is where healing happens. Orbis supplies volunteer medical professionals while donors fund aircraft and flights to destinations in need. Making eye care and the prevention of avoidable blindness available brings lasting change for people and their communities.
Why a flying eye hospital? Nearly 80% of visual impairment can be prevented or cured. The Flying Eye Hospital trains local medical staff and invites doctors to watch or perform surgery on the aircraft. Global telemedicine allows the healthcare providers to continue their training. Experienced pilots volunteer to fly these missions around the world. Most are retired or current cargo or airline pilots.
The first mobile teaching flying eye hospital was a modified Douglas DC-8 airliner. In 1992, Orbis converted a DC-10 wide-body aircraft into a full teaching and surgical hospital. Donated by United Airlines, it was the first non-land-based hospital to gain U.S. accreditation. Orbis flew its first mission in 1994 to Beijing, China.
In 2016, Orbis accepted an MD-10 cargo plane modified from the original Boeing DC-10-30F type by Federal Express. The MD-10 became a state-of-the-art hospital carrying doctors, nurses, engineers, support staff, and supplies. Modular medical units are removable for easy upgrade and resupply.
So what is it like on the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital? Join us for a week aboard this humanitarian aircraft.
Prepping for the Mission
The Flying Eye Hospital averages three trips a year, each lasting two to three weeks. The airplane usually lands a couple of days before the training program starts. Setting up the airplane and equipment as a hospital takes six to eight hours. (It takes as long to pack it up.)
Medicine and aviation come together through the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. Since 1982, this teaching hospital with wings has been working to prevent blindness around the world. It not only treats patients, but also educates healthcare workers in their communities.