Video: Inside the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

Video Transcript

The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital has been delivering sight-saving surgeries and training to middle- and low-income countries since 1982.

The current, third-generation Flying Eye Hospital is a 1973 model DC-10 that was converted to an MD-10. The new digital cockpit features avionics upgrades such as ADSB-in and out, a traffic alert and collision avoidance system, and everything it needs to fly anywhere in the world.

Behind the cockpit is a 46-seat classroom. It features a 3D screen where trainees can watch surgeries being carried out on-board and interact live with the surgeon to ask questions.

Everything behind the classroom has been designed on a palletized system so that the hospital section can be removed for easy maintenance. This area of the plane is not operational during flight and is located behind a 9G fire barrier.

The aircraft is outfitted with many cameras, which are controlled from an AV and IT room. A technician in this room captures all of the video and audio of training sessions, which can also be broadcast to trainees elsewhere in the world.

Behind this room is a patient care and laser treatment room, where medical personnel perform pre- and post-op exams. When its curtains are closed, laser treatments for conditions like glaucoma and diabetes can be performed.

The operating room sees around 6 or 7 surgeries per day. It’s outfitted with five cameras to broadcast surgeries to trainees. The room is strategically located right over the center landing gear so it is least affected by wind.

There’s a compartment between the operating room and a sterilization room so that instruments can be passed through and cleaned. The aircraft also has a refrigerator for medications that uses batteries that can run up to two weeks without power.

The pre- and post-operative care room has three beds for patients to prepare for and recover from surgeries. Behind it are two sets of changing rooms and lavatories for both men and women, since some countries have strict rules about sharing bathroom facilities.

The hospital section is powered by a wide variety of ground systems that are packed as freight during flight and unloaded when on the ground. The liquid cooling system keeps the operating room between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. While normal MD-10 aircraft have one water tank, the Flying Eye Hospital has six. The water goes through three kinds of filtration to kill bacteria and the water is tested daily to ensure it is hospital grade. The hospital section is not actually connected to the aircraft’s APU. It features quadruple power backups, including two generators, an uninterruptible power supply and batteries within the hospital equipment itself.

Although the Flying Eye Hospital has been grounded during the COVID-19 pandemic, Orbis has continued its mission through its telemedicine platform, Cybersight. Orbis hopes to get back to its flight operations in 2022.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.