Orbis Flying Eye Hospital on the tarmac in Kingston, Jamaica

Just Plane Awesome: Ten Facts About The Amazing Flying Eye Hospital

March 2020

The Flying Eye Hospital is a one-of-a-kind aircraft, specially designed to take our expert medical team and their teaching hospital anywhere in the world! Here are our favorite facts about this amazing aircraft...

PART OF HISTORY

The current Flying Eye Hospital is actually Orbis’s third aircraft. But don’t worry – our previous two planes have gone to good homes! Our first DC-8 is now in Beijing’s Aviation Museum and our second plane, a DC-10, lives in a museum in Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital DC-8 Aircraft

Our first Flying Eye Hospital is in Beijing’s Aviation Museum

A VERY SPECIAL GIFT

Our current plane, an MD-10, was kindly donated by our partners at FedEx. It took four years to build, and the hospital and aircraft were completed on opposite sides of the US - the hospital in Vermont and the aircraft in California. The hospital had to get transported to the West Coast before it could be installed!

Watch the plane being brought to life

ONE LONG ADVENTURE

Our Flying Eye Hospital started life in 1981 as a Transamerica combi plane, meaning it could carry both freight and passengers. It was then sold to FedEx who turned it into a freight-only model in 2001. It was later, in 2010, that the aircraft was donated to Orbis, changing its registration number from N301FE to N330AU.

Flying Eye Hospital's first mission to Panama in 1982

The Flying Eye Hospital on one of its first missions

AN AMAZING UPGRADE

The aircraft was actually upgraded from a DC-10 model to an MD-10 by FedEx. The process meant the cockpit and computer systems had to be completely replaced, eliminating the need for a third officer on board. Now, systems like fuel and cabin pressure are totally automated.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital MD-10 cockpit

The upgraded MD-10 flight deck

A HOSPITAL ON WHEELS

Almost everything inside the Flying Eye Hospital is installed on wheels! The hospital is made up of separate 'modules' so it is considered freight when in transit, allowing it to comply with all relevant medical certifications and fly around the world at the same time.

SEPARATE SYSTEMS

The operating theater on board has its own heating, cooling, electrical, emergency and fire warning systems, separate from the rest of the aircraft. These are all powered by six generators, which sit on the tarmac once the plane has landed.

POWERED BY JET FUEL

Our six generators are usually run on the same jet fuel that powers the Flying Eye Hospital – they’re seriously powerful machines!

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital MD-10 generators

WE DON’T TRAVEL LIGHT

The hospital, generators and equipment weigh so much that we can’t fully fuel the aircraft – it’d be too heavy to take off! That means we have to leave behind around four hours of fuel, making the planning and logistics of these flights even more critical than normal.

THIRSTY WORK

The water we use on board the Flying Eye Hospital has to be clean enough for surgeons to wash their hands with. But around the world, we sometimes have to take water from unclean sources. That’s why our five water tanks can completely sanitize water and kill germs using ultraviolet lights, carbon filters and a bromide injector.

Generous Orbis supporters stand outside the Flying Eye Hospital

The plane is powered by our amazing supporters

YOU POWER OUR PLANE

Our final and favorite fact is that without you, our plane wouldn’t get off the ground. Every takeoff, landing, surgery and training session we perform is made possible by our partners and generous donors – so thank you!