Flying Eye Hospital Returns Home for Flight Festival Before Retiring to Arizona Museum • Long Beach Post

This weekend’s Festival of Flight at Long Beach Airport were already promised to be a sight to see and Orbis, an international non-profit fighting blindness, has added its mobile sight clinic, dubbed the Flying Eye Hospital, to the attractions that will be on display at Long Beach Airport.

The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 was ushered into retirement by Orbis’ unveiling of its third-generation Flying Eye Hospital in June of this year. It had been in operation since 1994 serving as the group’s traveling classroom, flying to developing countries and providing hands-on training to local eye-care professionals.

flyingeyehospital1It’s team of of 400 volunteer doctors have flown 299 missions during the DC-10’s 22-year run as the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, traveling to far away countries like Vietnam, Cameroon and Bangladesh and bringing with it much needed technology and ideas to local doctors.

“Our mission at Orbis is to bring the world together to fight blindness, as we believe that no one should go blind from conditions that are treatable or preventable,” said Bob Ranck, president and CEO of Orbis International. “The Flying Eye Hospital helps us do that. It is in equal parts teacher, envoy and advocate. We harness this powerful tool for change to support long-term programs around the world.”

It’s estimated that over 280 million people worldwide have some kind of visual impairment, with about 80 percent of those issues being curable or preventable. Most of the affected people live in the regions targeted by Orbis over the past few decades in its efforts to help fight blindness.

Orbis boasts that in just the past five years, the group has trained over 10,000 doctors with the very Flying Eye Hospital that will be on display in Long Beach during Saturday’s festival. The plane has also facilitated the training of over 100,000 nurses and provided 11.6 million people with eye screenings, either on the plane or at affiliated hospitals, according to the group.

The plane has been replaced by the newer Boeing MD-10 which completed its inaugural flight last month to Shenyang, China where Orbis volunteers performed sight-restoring surgeries on children and other community members. The new plane is equipped with 3D filming and has broadcasting capabilities that allow participants to observe live surgeries through the vantage point of the surgeon’s microscope lens.


“The surgeon in the operating room can be seen in the classroom on the front of the plane in 3D and can talk to the people who are being trained about exactly what he’s doing,” said Orbis spokesperson Louise Harris. “The technology means that the operations can be broadcast off the plane into classrooms in the local hospital and reach a much broader audience.”

The newer plane also has a 46-seat classroom, patient care and laser treatment room, operating, sterilization and pre- and post-op rooms for patients.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for the Flying Eye Hospital, as it was constructed in Long Beach during McDonnell Douglas’ run as an aerospace giant in the city, one that officially ended last year when when Boeing, the company that acquired McDonnell Douglas in 1997, closed its military manufacturing plant in Long Beach.

The DC-10’s legacy remains on display, despite the removal of the “10” that, in the wake of a multitude of accidents and mishaps with the model, led to hundreds of deaths and injuries during the 70s, 80s and 90s. Production of the plane ceased in 1989 and this particular DC-10 hasn’t been back to Long Beach since its inaugural flight, the first in a long line of service dedicated to helping restore and maintain their ability to see.

“It’s a historic moment and so fitting that the plane should go back to its home,” said Orbis Spokesperson Louise Harris. “It’s first flight was out of Long Beach and it’s final flight will be out of Long Beach and that’s pretty significant.”

After the festival scheduled this weekend the DC-10 will make its last flight to Arizona where it will become part of the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson.

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