Valentine's Day: Volunteer pilots Pete & Cheryl Pitzer outside the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

Love Is In The Air On Our Flying Eye Hospital

As today is Valentine's Day and we’re a romantic bunch here at Orbis, we wanted to share a heartwarming story about two pilots, Captains Cheryl and Pete Pitzer, who not only fell in love with the Flying Eye Hospital – but also each other.

Some of our more avid supporters may recognize Cheryl as one of the pilots from our first ever all-female flight crew story back in April last year. Cheryl is one of the most experienced pilots in the business, having started as a flight engineer for FedEx 24 years ago. Cheryl started flying the DC-10s and, before long, became a Captain and then instructor for the MD-10s and 11s.

Cheryl and her husband Pete recently piloted the Flying Eye Hospital to Ghana where they became the first wife and husband team in the 40-year history of Orbis to fly this amazing aircraft. Cheryl and Pete even hung around for a few days to help out the team.

Volunteer Flying Eye Hospital pilots Cheryl and Pete Pitzer in the flight deck

The wonderful couple in the Flying Eye Hospital flight deck

Cheryl and Pete’s story begins about 20 years ago when they were both starting off at FedEx. They found themselves on the same flight schedules with long layovers in Puerto Rico, spending months hanging out before their schedules changed and they didn’t see each other again for years.

“We had long layovers in Puerto Rico, so we got to kind of know each other - we went to the beach, went to dinner. We were on the 727 at the time, and I already had a bid to go to another airplane. So we flew those two months and I went to another airplane. So we never flew again for years," Cheryl told us.

Cuddles with Orbis mascot Seymour the bear on the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

Cuddles with Orbis mascot Seymour the bear

It was a number of years before they were re-united again. Pete had been flying a 727 but asked to move to the MD-11. By now Cheryl was an instructor on the MacDonald Douglas aircrafts and got to spend some more quality time with her soon-to-be-husband as she showed him the ropes on this unfamiliar aircraft.

Cheryl and Pete have now been married for 9 happy years, living on a ranch just outside of Dallas. They both love sailing, horses, flying and, of course, helping Orbis fight blindness around the world.

It's a very sought after honor to fly for Orbis. So I was thrilled when Gary Dyson asked me to do it about four years ago, when the MD-10 came on and replaced the DC-10."

Cheryl Pitzer

FedEx volunteer Flying Eye Hospital pilot

Orbis to me is just an amaz­ing way to give back. As a pilot, I can fly air­planes. I don’t have a lot of oth­er skills. I can’t do eye surgery, you know, so you have to find what you can do to give back. And this is such an amaz­ing orga­ni­za­tion and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Real­ly, I feel like I’m doing good.
Volunteer Flying Eye Hospital pilot Pete Pitzer escorts a patient down the jet steps in Ghana

Pete escorts a patient down the jet steps in Ghana

Cheryl loves to hang around and help out at screening days at local hospitals after she’s safely landed the plane.

“It's less chaotic than I expected,” she tells us. “But everybody said that it can be quite chaotic and I have been impressed with how organized it really is. And the documentation especially seems to be very in order. So that's impressive.”

Cheryl has been particularly impressed by the vision simulation technology on board the aircraft, especially as simulation has been so prominent in her career.

“I think it's amazing, because you can do all those things and make those mistakes and learn from those mistakes without actually hurting anyone.”

Well Cheryl, we think you’re absolutely amazing. Thank you so much, to you and your wonderful husband, for being the skilled and dedicated pilots you are, and giving up your free time to help fight blindness around the world.

We hope you both have a wonderful Valentine's Day.

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