Last year, while I was scurrying from one interview to the next during the final day of the annual World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) exhibition in Palm Springs, California, Thompson Aerospace president and CEO Mark Thompson pulled me aside and asked if I could spare a few minutes to talk about something at his booth.
I must admit that, after having interviewed countless in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) executives during the week, I was rather eager to wrap things up, bid the good members of the WAEA adieu, and find a comfortable barstool for some dedicated Corona drinking.
Mark was eager too, but not to tell me about Thompson Aerospace, an Irvine, California-based firm that provides IFEC solutions for the short-haul market. Instead, he sought to inform me about Orbis, a charity whose mission is to cure blind children and adults in impoverished nations around the world.
Orbis is perhaps best known in the aviation world for its Flying Eye Hospital, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10, which is specially fitted with a state-of-the-art surgical suite and teaching facility. On board this aircraft, doctors cure everything from Trachoma to congenital cataracts, while training local medical technicians to do the same.
But the non-profit organization also operates permanent offices and long-term facilities around the world to ensure its work continues unabated even after the venerable DC-10 returns to the skies. The operation is, as you can imagine, a massive undertaking, and massively expensive. Volunteering - be it people, services or things - are key to the success of Orbis, but so are financial donations.
Since my chat with Mark at WAEA in October 2009, I have visited Orbis at its New York headquarters and written about the charity for Flight International magazine's Christmas issue. While in Los Angeles for a recent WAEA single focus workshop, I took advantage of my close proximity to Irvine to visit with Orbis president Jack McHale, a true aviation industry veteran (and a real character, as the Irish say), whose enthusiasm for Orbis' work is infectious. So infectious, in fact, that I've found myself thinking about Orbis quite a lot these days, and I wonder if there isn't something that the IFEC industry can do to help. Who better to appreciate sight than the men and women who work in this highly visual industry?
Meanwhile, this journalist is looking forward to seeing some pretty amazing aircraft interiors and IFEC at the annual Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg this week (follow all the news, video and images of the show at the Flightglobal landing page and on Twitter via the hashtag #HAM10. If you pull me aside for a chat, I'd like to tell you about a charity named Orbis.