Engine No. 2/vertical stabilizer ("the tail") of the Orbis MD-10-30F Flying Eye Hospital (N330AU). Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter

Engine No. 2/vertical stabilizer (“the tail”) of the Orbis MD-10-30F Flying Eye Hospital (N330AU) – Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter

On June 2, Orbis International launched their new, third-generation “Flying Eye Hospital” on board a converted MD-10-30F donated by FedEx. Orbis is a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to provide advanced eye care and medical training to communities throughout the world without access to such facilities, technology, and expertise… literally bringing the hospital to patients and caregivers who need it the most.

I was invited aboard for a special private tour to see this mobile hospital for myself and learn about more its history, design, and purpose, and I created a short video slideshow of highlights…

Orbis was founded in 1982 and the first Flying Eye Hospital was on a Douglas DC-8. Outgrowing that airframe (along with more difficult maintenance of the aging airliner), a Douglas DC-10 was commissioned in 1994 and served for 22 years until its retirement earlier this year.

Another DC-10 freighter was donated by FedEx, which then converted the airframe into an MD-10 with a glass cockpit, one less person on the flight deck, and enhanced performance capabilities. The aircraft actually remains registered as a Part 125 cargo freighter (and we’ll tell you why later). The Flying Eye Hospital was christened during a weekend gala at Los Angeles International Airport before embarking on a national launch tour around the U.S. The first mission will be later this summer to China.

I met up with the fine folks at Orbis who gave me an all-access private tour before the Flying Eye Hospital took off for Sacramento on the first stop of its U.S. tour. Here is a snippet of what I saw and learned:


All the thought, logistics, and assistance that went on behind getting this project off the ground, as well as the lofty goals and global reach (all puns intended) was mindblowing, and deserving of an in-depth written feature that will be available soon.

For now, thanks for watching and please leave your comments below!

Learn more about Orbis International at orbis.org.


SENIOR CORRESPONDENT - LOS ANGELES, CA. With LAX serving as a second home, John enjoys being confined to an aluminum (or now carbon composite) cylinder jetting through the air miles above the terra firma. He has logged millions of miles in such conditions and enjoyed it 99% of the time. Email: john@airlinereporter.com. You can also read more about John's non-AVGeek musings on his personal blog, VNAFlyer.

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Thanks for sharing! I drive by LAX 2-3 times a week and have seen this plane. I had been wondering about how it would look like inside!

Thanks Arturo! Fun fact: FedEx essentially treat the plane like its own, so if there’s a FedEx paddock wherever the Orbis MD-10 goes, it’ll be parked and maintained there. Did you happen to see it when it was parked at the LAX FedEx area near Nash St.?

John | Airline Reporter

Andrew Taylor

Thanks for the nice video. A very impressive mobile medical unit. And, great to see this beautiful aircraft put to another use in her life!

Mobile on so many different levels. I literally jumped at the opportunity to visit… I haven’t on a DC-10-type since AA flew an MD-11 when I was a kid. Also, Orbis’s previous DC-10 was one of a handful of non-cargo DC-10s still operational at the time. #avgeek

John | Airline Reporter

An uplifting story, thanks for publishing it. Very generous of Fedex and its employees to assist/donate.

Indeed, I was a little floored to hear of how involved FedEx was in quietly supporting Orbis. I’ll have more fun tidbits to share when I post my in-depth feature, so please stay tuned!

John | Airline Reporter

Excellent video, and a very effective teaser!

Thanks, I hope I do the follow-up feature some justice!

John | Airline Reporter

Thanks for sharing video. This video is really helpful

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