The organisation’s DC-10-10, registered N220AU, was the second DC-10 off the production line and first flew in late 1970.
It was in service with carriers including Laker Airways and Cal Air International before being transferred to Orbis in 1992 and fitted out as an airborne eye hospital. It includes an ophthalmic surgical centre and training facilities.
Orbis says the DC-10-10 is to be replaced with a DC-10-30 freighter which, it says, is around 10 years younger. The organisation adds that United and FedEx will equally fund the donation which amounts to some $2 million based on the value of the aircraft.
Conversion of the DC-10-30 into a ‘flying eye hospital’ is to take around two years.
“The new aircraft will allow Orbis to continue its mobile sight-saving training for 20 years,” says Orbis executive director Geoffrey Holland, adding that the two carriers have demonstrated “extraordinary generosity”.
United and FedEx pilots voluntarily fly the hospital jet with an international medical team on board to provide specialist eye treatment and host training programmes. Orbis says the new aircraft will be more efficient and reliable, and provide greater range.
“Millions of people who would otherwise go blind or remain blind for lack of proper eye care will reap the rewards of advanced ophthalmic training,” says Holland.
Orbis’ original aircraft was an ex-United McDonnell Douglas DC-8 which was succeeded by the DC-10-10 and retired in 1994.
United was the primary source of maintenance of the Orbis DC-10 until 2001 when it retired its own DC-10 fleet. FedEx subsequently took over as the DC-10’s primary sponsor, providing aircraft maintenance and other services to Orbis through its freight-delivery network.