Flying Eye Hospital

The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital is unlike any plane you’ve seen before! A state-of-the-art teaching facility complete with operating room, classroom and recovery room - this amazing aircraft has been an example of the marriage between medicine and aviation since 1982.

A Classroom in the Sky

The Flying Eye Hospital is the world’s only fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft. Equal parts teacher, advocate, and envoy in the global effort to end avoidable blindness, our state-of-the-art flying plane allows our clinical team and world-leading Volunteer Faculty (medical experts) to travel the world sharing knowledge and developing the skills of eye care professionals in the communities that need it most.

Once a cargo plane, the interior of our third-generation Flying Eye Hospital, an MD-10 donated by FedEx, was completely transformed with the support of our many generous partners.

Over the past four decades, thanks to our compassionate supporters, three generations of the Flying Eye Hospital have taken world-class training to eye care teams in over 95 countries and been a call-to-action for better eye care around the world. Wherever it lands, it raises awareness, creates change, and rallies supporters—from local governments, global organizations, and philanthropists to the general public—to join the global fight to end avoidable blindness.

The Power of the Plane

The Flying Eye Hospital is invited to help train local eye care teams by officials in every country where it lands. Not only does it provide a space to train doctors, nurses, biomedical technicians, and other eye care professionals, but it also opens the doors to prime ministers, presidents, and ministries of health so that we can make the case for investing in eye health for all. Our amazing staff and volunteers can then work in partnership with local hospitals to understand skills shortages and work where the need is greatest.

This level of access has allowed Orbis to help change health policies for the better, reach eye care teams in need of training, improve the lives of those lacking access to care, and develop lasting bonds with people around the globe to ensure long-term impact.

The Latest Technology

The Flying Eye Hospital is not only packed with the latest medical equipment; it has some of the very latest training facilities, too. The entire plane is outfitted with an advanced audio visual system that allows training participants in the classroom to watch surgeries happening in the operating room live in 3D—making it as close to the real thing as looking down the microscope yourself. A two-way microphone also allows training participants to ask questions about the operation and for the surgeon to share details about the procedure, enhancing the learning opportunity.

The aircraft also features a state-of-the-art mobile simulation center. Just as pilots learn to fly planes through simulation training before taking off from the runway, simulation training in ophthalmology allows eye care teams to build their skills and confidence safely before progressing to real-life surgeries.

Simulation training helps eye care professionals perfect their skills before performing surgery on patients.

Inside the Flying Eye Hospital, Orbis offers simulation training using technology like virtual reality, artificial eyes, and life-like manikins, allowing for complex surgical procedures to be broken down into smaller parts. This gives eye care professionals the opportunity to practice each step as many times as they need to get it right, something that’s not possible with an actual patient. As a result, simulation training has been shown to improve surgical outcomes for patients.

Aviation blogger Sam Chui visited the Flying Eye Hospital in Ghana.

Whether a program offers simulation training or live surgical training, Orbis always creates tailored and customized curricula for our partner hospitals’ needs, based on what skills are most needed locally and their equipment's capabilities. Volunteer Faculty train local eye care teams both on board the aircraft and at their local hospital, providing education that is both high-quality and practical for when the Flying Eye Hospital departs.

Watch this amazing time lapse of the plane, donated by FedEx, being brought to life.

Blended Learning

The pandemic taught us many valuable lessons about virtual learning. In 2020, Orbis reimagined in-person Flying Eye Hospital trainings as virtual ones to ensure that eye care teams could still access critical training safely during the pandemic. Orbis reached nine countries in 2020 and 34 countries in 2021 through virtual Flying Eye Hospital projects. Now that in-person programming is back in action, we plan to continue with a method of “blended learning” to give eye care professionals a more well-rounded education.

Blended learning is the combination of in-person simulation and surgical training on board the Flying Eye Hospital with tailored virtual training offered at home via Cybersight, Orbis’s telemedicine and e-learning platform. This model adopts the best of both training methods into one, ensuring that participants can begin their education before the plane arrives and continue their education after the plane leaves.

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