VANDALIA — The Vectren Dayton Air Show is proud to have as one of its static display aircraft this year, the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital.
The aircraft, a MD-10, is impressive just to see up close, but the most impressive part is what is on the inside.
The Flying Eye Hospital is exactly what the name implies. The aircraft, staffed by Fed Ex pilots who volunteer their time, flies Orbis medical staff members wherever they are needed around the world.
Their mission is to provide eye care to those in need. The staff not only performs eye procedures but, more importantly, provides education to medical personnel in other countries in order that they might continue to treat eye disease and injuries long after the Orbis staff has gone.
The aircraft began its life as a cargo aircraft and was donated by Fed Ex to Orbis before spending several years being converted into a one-of-a-kind flying medical facility.
The eye care available on board is state-of-the-art. A complete battery of vision testing equipment is on board as well as a fully equipped surgery center.
Just aft of the crew cabin and a galley is a conference room area where Orbis doctors and nurses teach their counterparts in other countries how to perform eye procedures. Sophisticated video camera and audio hookups allow surgeons to communicate with students as they perform surgery.
Many of the patients treated by the Orbis volunteers are children. The staff takes great pride in giving children and adults in areas of the world where proper eye care is many times not available, a chance at saving, or regaining, their sight.
A “typical” mission aboard the aircraft is six-to-twelve days. The aircraft rarely spends much time in the United States. The volunteer crew members fly to wherever the Flying Hospital is working, then prepare for and fly to the next area where their services are needed.
The aircraft and crew are entirely self-sustaining. Mobile generators are off-loaded to provide power for the aircraft and medical systems. Fuel to power the generators is used out of the right-wing tanks of the aircraft.
Gary Dyson, a long-time pilot for Fed Ex, is one of the volunteers who flies the aircraft. Dyson is very proud of the work that is done by the Flying Eye Hospital and said that once they land at a destination, the pilots roll up their sleeves and pitch in to perform whatever work needs done.
The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital has provided services on six continents since its beginning in 1973.
David Cherwek, Deputy Director of Clinical Services, for Orbis, stresses that Orbis is less about performing surgery and more about teaching doctors in other counties to care for patients. “We think of ourselves as the flying United Nations,” said Cherwek, “what I love about this is that everyone in this room is focused on one thing, helping the patient and teaching others.”
The Orbis aircraft is on the ramp at the Vectren Dayton Air Show and tours are being conducted throughout the day.