Take a Virtual Tour of the New Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
Introducing the new Orbis MD-10 Flying Eye Hospital!
*Click here to follow the first journey of the new plane to China.
A Hospital That Flies? … How’d They Do That?
This is part 2 in a multi-part series about Orbis International. Read part 1 about Flight Tests below:
Building an eye hospital anywhere is no small task, but building one on a functioning wide-body aircraft is nothing short of an engineering masterpiece.
The new Orbis Flying Eye Hospital is that masterpiece.
Orbis led a design team of aviation experts, FedEx team members, and former FedEx and McDonnell Douglas employees to create a design to outfit the donated FedEx MD-10 freighter with a hospital.
The main deck hospital was designed to fit on custom designed, full-width cargo pallets so that it could be built first, then loaded piece by piece into the aircraft on a custom designed cargo handling system. The outer shells, interior walls, cabinets, plumbing, wiring, and state of the art hospital systems were built and assembled in Vermont, then transported to California to be loaded on the plane as cargo.
The design called for nine modules on the main deck of the plane. There are also two workstations in the forward lower cargo area, connected by ladder access to the rest of the plane.
Charles Thompson is the MD-10 Program Director for Orbis. He retired from FedEx in 2009 after 12 years, having also served in the US Navy for 28 years. Charles told us, “As you can imagine, this has never been done before. This hospital is built according to commercial hospital building standards, and it is an accredited ambulatory care hospital.”
The modules were loaded, secured, and wired together on the plane. Many of the hospital rooms actually span more than one cargo pallet, creating rooms that are not dependent on pallet separations.
After the modules were loaded, the team started putting on the finishing touches: installation and checking of hospital systems, floor coverings, and furnishings.
Orbis: Flight Tests Paving the Way for Next Generation Flying Eye Hospital (Part 1)
Note: This is the first of a multi-part feature on Orbis International
- 39 million – The number of people in the world who are blind. That’s more than the total population of California.
- 285 million – The number of people in the world who are visually impaired. That’s almost as many people as the entire population of the United States.
- 80% – The percentage of visual impairment that can be avoided or cured through access to quality eye care.
How are smart, motivated people helping to connect solutions with those in need?
One example is a nonprofit organization called Orbis. Orbis is dedicated to saving sight worldwide, and they operate the world’s only Flying Eye Hospital.
That’s right, Orbis has a massive, three engine, wide-body airplane that functions as a fully equipped mobile teaching hospital.
Orbis has the ability to fly an entire ophthalmic hospital and teaching facility directly to developing countries so that local doctors can learn the latest, best medical methods for treating their patients. The benefits have an incredible ripple effect of improved care for years to come.
Consider the impact on someone like 8-year-old, Akash, who lives in Mumbai, India. Akash was born with exotropia, a condition that caused one of his eyes to turn in a different direction. Exotropia not only affected his vision, but also his ability to learn and his self-esteem. Because Akash lived in extreme poverty, there was no opportunity for his eyesight to be repaired, until it was determined that he qualified for a free surgery through Orbis. Today he is living with corrected vision.
Since 1982, Orbis programs have enhanced the skill of 325,000 eye care professionals and provided medical and optical treatment to more than 23.3 million people in 92 countries.
FedEx has supported the Orbis mission for more than 33 years through more than $22 million in donations and in-kind shipping.
*Source: Orbis International
Flight Test for the Future
Right now, Orbis is working to retrofit the next generation Flying Eye Hospital, an MD-10 aircraft that FedEx donated to the organization back in 2011.
The plane is being completely renovated and refurbished to bring quality eye care to millions more people in the future.
The new plane will be state-of-the-art according to Johnny Cooper, Director of Corporate Partnerships at Orbis, “The new Flying Eye Hospital incorporates the latest technical features and applications in engineering, materials, design and communications innovations, which are being integrated into our new MD-10 freighter platform.”
FedEx aircraft maintenance crews have been extensively involved in the transformation of the new Flying Eye Hospital in a hangar at the Southern California Logistics Airport. Volunteer and retired FedEx aircraft maintenance technicians, flight crews, engineers, hospital module design teams, and many others have spent countless hours working to make the new Flying Eye Hospital take shape.
Recently the plane passed some major milestones as it completed FAA-required flight and smoke tests. Hardworking staff from Orbis, FedEx, and other important supporters cheered in the California desert as the massive MD-10 plane roared past and lifted gently into the bright morning sky.
The plane was piloted by volunteer test pilots, Eric Van Court, a retired FedEx pilot, and Bob Moreau, who currently flies for FedEx. With Orbis and FAA evaluators on board, the two skilled aviators took the plane through a rigorous series of tests of its safety and control mechanisms.
Hours later, just after sunset, the plane reappeared as a tiny dot approaching in the quickly darkening sky.
As maintenance crews and staff strained to get a glimpse of the landing, one of them commented, “Wow! What a beauty.”
You might call it a sight for sore eyes.