After more than six years of work, Orbis has unveiled the third generation of its flying eye hospital Using an MD-10 donated by FedEx. The aircraft was greeted by a water cannon salute at Memphis.
Orbis' new aircraft, an MD-10-30CF, was originally delivered to Trans International Airlines in April 1973 as a DC-10-30CF with tail number N101TV according to Aviation Week Intelligence Network's Fleet Database. It was sold to FedEx in April 1984 as N301FE and converted to an MD-10 in 2001. It was donated to Orbis in March 2010 and now carries tail number N330AU. A thanks to the employees of FedEx for the donation is visible on the fuselage.
Because FedEx has long since converted its DC-10s to MD-10s, which share a common type rating with the MD-11, moving to an aircraft type used by FedEx helps reduce the expense of keeping a handful of volunteer pilots trained on an obsolete type. Eighteen volunteer FedEx pilots, including the ones shown here, currently fly Orbis' aircraft.
The aircraft kicked off a six-city tour in Los Angeles on June 2nd with an unveiling and christening. Next stop on its tour was Memphis, home of Orbis supporter FedEx. Aviation Week was invited to tour the aircraft on Thursday alongside FedEx employees.
Orbis is a non-governmental organization based in New York that operates the world's only flying eye hospital, travelling to remote corners of the globe to spread surgical knowledge and skills in the field of ophthalmology to local doctors. John Ranck, President and CEO of Orbis, speaks to visitors on board the aircraft.
With 46 seats up front, Orbis has essentially created a combi aircraft where passengers and crew are separated from what is still technically the cargo section by a rigid 9g barrier. This section also doubles as a classroom for doctors who can watch operations being performed.
Taking advantage of the aircraft’s cargo door, Orbis has created a unique setup in that the hospital is installed in modules that can be loaded and unloaded as opposed to the permanently-installed equipment in their current DC-10-10, which Orbis has been flying since 1994. Shown here is the hallway which allows access to the various sections of the aircraft.
Orbis can set up the hospital as they see fit without the hassle and expense of additional airworthiness approvals since the outfitted modules are considered cargo. Pictured is the aircraft’s operating room.
A view of the patient care and laser room, with a view of the operating room on the right.
Teddy bears greet visitors to the pre- and post-operative care room located in the rear of the aircraft.
As Orbis' new MD-10 begins work later this year, its aging DC-10 is tentatively scheduled to be donated to the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz. Orbis' original flying eye hospital, a DC-8-21 which Orbis used from the early 1980s to 1994, is currently on display at the Chinese Aviation Museum near Beijing, China.