FedEx Blog

FedEx Blog

Take a Virtual Tour of the New Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

June 16, 2016

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

Here are three big numbers to think about*:

  • 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

Test pilots for Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

Test pilots for the new Orbis Flying Eye Hospital: Eric Van Court, retired FedEx pilot, and Bob Moreau, current FedEx pilot.

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.

  • Inspectors place sensor devices inside the new Flying Eye Hospital for FAA smoke tests.

  • MD-10 donated by FedEx to become the next generation Orbis Flying Eye Hospital.

  • Flight test for the new Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

  • MD-10 donated by FedEx to become the next generation Orbis Flying Eye Hospital.

  • Test pilots for the new Orbis Flying Eye Hospital: Eric Van Court, retired FedEx pilot, and Bob Moreau, current FedEx pilot.

  • Nose of the new Orbis Flying Eye Hospital


    Eric Van Court says:

    Great team, Great project, Great vision.

    Jodi Cheng says:

    Thank you for the wonderful work done to give back vision and hopes to so many people who would be left living in darkness if not for the help from Orbis and its generous sponsors. Please keep up the good work for more and more poor people to be able to see the beauty in the world like us!

    Park Burrets says:

    Orbis is such a wonderful charity. The impact on so many people is hard to grasp. Thanks to FedEx for donating the airplane and to all the people converting it into a teaching hospital.
    By the way, thanks to Eric Van Court’s diligence and exceptional flight test skills, FedEx to able fly the quieter 727s an extra 20 years.

    SIMBEY says:

    great job fedex
    go purple purple go go go

    Betty Rutherford says:

    Thx for sharing this with me. Being retired, I am out of the loop

    B. Gordon Whitestone says:

    Great job to the entire Orbis MD-10 Team (and especially Noelle and Charles). It wouldn’t have happened without your dedication, perseverance and expertise. Sincere congrats for a job well done. For all the poor people in the world who need this and will benefit – THANKS! Thanks also to the FedEx and Boeing team who have provided enormous support to this cause.

    Shuichi SATO says:

    I’m very happy to know that dear MD-10 has revived as a flying hospital.

    Ernesto de Armas says:

    I am a current MD-11/10 Captain in Memphis and will be retiring at age 65 on July 18th, 2016. My son is just graduating from Optometry School, so the Orbis program has special meaning to me. If the program needs volunteer pilots, I would love the opportunity to offer my services.
    in either case, Thank you so much to everyone involved in this very worthy cause

    nikolas says:


    Bernadette Nicholson says:

    Way to go FedEx – limitless.

    Jullyca Leonoras says:

    I hope that plane would arrive her too in Philippines. Many Filipino cant afford to go on hospitals. Maybe that one can really help. Thanks GOD that there is PEOPLE like you guys that has a good heart.

    Gansean Arumugham says:

    Thanks to FedEx for developing good set of retired FedEx Test Pilots to the new Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. This aircraft will fly like a smooth bird on both the crews hands. May God bless both the crew members Eric Van Court and Bob Morean. Thanks to FedEx and all the Orbis crew members.

    Reza Ziai says:

    Great vision, great job, win-win for all. BZ to everyone including Charles Thompson (my former manager). Thank you.

    Joe Sheffield says:

    FedEx its Absolutely Amazing! After being associated for many years you never cease to impress it is a true honor. Great Work and BZ to All!

    Don Shannon says:

    What a wonderful program. Thank you FedX, FedX pilots and crews, FedX employees, and all of the other volunteers who help in this program.

    Sarath Markalanda says:

    I have been working for FedEx for the last 26 years, what a great company to work for. I thank FedEx every day for giving me the employment and I am sure there are over 350,000 people who feel this way. Thank you FedEx for all you do for the employees and the rest of the world. Thank you Mr. Fred Smith for all you have done for this world.

    How can I volunteer to this great program ?

    David Soto says:

    Great job by the highly talented FedEx Express aircraft maintenance staff!

    EDNA HIPPEY says:


    Bruce Payette says:

    Congratulations. As a Heritage McDonnell Douglas employee that worked closely with the entire FedEx team developing and converting the DC10 to MD10 I want to say thanks to Eric and the entire FedEx team for their contributions and keeping the MD10 part of a great cause. I am very proud to have been a part of the MD10 Program and seeing the Flying Eye makes it that much more special.

    Lacy Croft says:

    What a great contribution to humanity! Thank you, FEDEX.

    onya clinton alobi says:

    May God grant FedEx international all the enablement to continue their good works

    Rayo says:


    Alex says:

    WOW! Absolutely Positively, Amazing!

    Jim Kellner says:

    I have never been so impressed by a company as FedEx. Way to go.

    Philip Mitchell says:

    Saw the new Orbis MD-10 parked at Moffett Field, Mountain View CA this week. Is it here for a training session?

    Jason B. says:

    Hi Phillip – thanks for your comment. The new plane is currently in northern California for some final equipment checks and staff orientation sessions.

    Jennifer says:

    Bravo to Fedex for their tremendous generosity, and the brilliant Orbis team. This is American ingenuity and charity at its best.

    Anonymous says:

    Wow! This is the first time I have heard of this. What an incredible program. Thank you FedEx and all parties involved in bring this to fruition. I hope Orbis will bring eye care to many in need.

    Marcia Haywood says:

    As a former Flight Attendant, I am so proud of the Flight Crew,Doctors,Boeing, McDonald Douglas and Federal Express. 20/200 is my vision so this is the a dream come true for many. Hope Angel – Lady Hope Video that I am in by Dr. Theo Kousouli is exactly the message of HOPE come to fruition.

    Marcia Haywood says:

    A dream come true!!! as a former Flight Attendant and an activist for the less fortunate, this is a Blessing to Many.

    TANAKA,Fabio says:


    amadiel flores says:

    keep up the good work FEDEX…

    Milton says:

    Come to Belize

    Jacob says:

    Big commitment with society giving hope and health to whom may need, great job FedEx

    Patricia Shirrell says:

    Just a BIG AMEN.

Post a Comment

You may also like: