Eye-care charity Orbis has flown its flying eye hospital to Abu Dhabi to welcome Routes delegates onboard the aircraft and showcase its work training ocular health professionals around the world.
Attendees will be able to experience guided tours of Orbis's specially-converted McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 to hear from its crew of medical professionals about their work.
Fitted with a complete ophthalmic operating suite, four bed pre-operation and recovery room, sub-sterile room and laser room, the aircraft is used primarily as an ophthalmic training facility. Orbis uses it to teach ophthalmologists, optometrists, ophthalmic nurses and biomedical engineers. To date, it has trained medical staff and performed surgeries in 77 countries. The modified airframe brings the floor panel deflection tolerance to .0001 inch for laser eye surgery. The aircraft also houses a water purification system that filters water five times to allow the use of local water supplies in any destination.
Orbis hopes that by training eye care professionals in developing countries, it can meaningfully lower the number of blind people around the world, which it says currently stands at 39 million, adding that 80% of visual impairment is curable.
The aircraft has been maintained by FedEx for the past 30 years and the company has also provided Orbis with a McDonnell-Douglas MD-10 freighter, which is being similarly converted into a flying eye hospital. This will replace the DC-10, which is retiring in November, being the second off the assembly line in Long Beach and the oldest of the type still flying. The facilities in the new aircraft have been constructed in modular containers, which mean they can be upgraded or taken out and installed in another aircraft more easily.
FedEx also provides the aircraft's pilots, who travel to where it is stationed and fly it to its next destination, where it typically stays for two to three weeks. In addition, Orbis has its own director of aviation, two mechanics who gravel with the aircraft and two logistics personnel.
Because of its aircraft, Orbis says it receives a great deal of affinity from the airline industry and says it would not be able to provide the service without its generosity. One example of the support it has received was in Calcutta, where the aircraft was unable to fly after experiencing an issue. To resolve the problem, a DC-10 borescope was flown to the city, along with engineers who conducted a technical determination on safety, shortening the aircraft delay to 24 hours. Orbis says that its operations see competing airlines work together to assist the charity by providing tools, parts and expertise.
Situated at the Al Bateen executive airport in Abu Dhabi, the aircraft is open for visits throughout the conference, but anyone wishing to do so should reserve a place on the tours section of the Routes website. Numbers are limited so it is advisable to book early.