ORBIS International is a non-profit organization developed to combat blindness in Third World countries. Philanthropists purchased a Douglas DC-10-10 aircraft in 1992 and donated it to the group in an effort to bring support to people anywhere in the world - the ORBIS DC-10 is the oldest DC-10 still flying today (2013). The basic purpose of ORBIS is to bring eye care to its patients and to succeed, the organization relies on 500 volunteer faculty members around the world to provide clinical and technical expertise at local hospitals as well as onboard the "Flying Eye Hospital" for a number of sight-saving procedures. To date (2013), the ORBIS DC-10 has logged more than forty years of active service as an airliner and eye hospital and is expected to be replaced in the coming years with a McDonnell Douglas MD-10-30F, a later DC-10 variant donated by FedEx so she can continue her valuable sight-saving missions around the globe.
For its modernized role, the aircraft undertook a refit program that lasted two years, having most of her passenger seating removed to include a new training and active service hospital. The first-class section was converted into a 48-seat theater so local doctors could watch actual real-time procedures in the operating arena. Behind the theater is located the state-of-the-art operating room and, behind the operating room, a three-bed recovery room. All told, the refit totaled roughly $15 million dollars. As a 601(c)(3) charitable company, ORBIS International support includes aircraft personnel from FedEx and United Airlines where volunteer their time to fly and maintain the "Eye Hospital" from one airport to the next - essentially able to reach anywhere in the world with an acceptable runaway. The ORBIS people make approximately eight trips per year and each mission takes weeks of planning by all involved - doctors, staff and air crew. Due to the true age of the DC-10 in use, the aircraft requires many inspection hours and a high level of maintenance.
ORBIS works in some of the world's most underserved areas to deliver service in two ways: while the DC-10 is in the hands of its mechanics, the onboard doctors and staff are in the host country interviewing perspective patients and training local doctors. The medical staff meets with local eye care clinics and provides familiarization to staff by showcasing current ophthalmic technology. In the last 20 years, ORBIS has carried out programs in 77 different countries, providing treatment to more than 15 million visually impaired people. During the programs, more than 200,000 eye care professionals around the world were introduced to modern equipment and procedures.
One of the missions revolve around outreach, a broad-based building program consisting of local doctors, hospitals , clinics, eye banks and government/non-governmental health organizations. Currently the ORBIS team has approximately 100 active partners that maintain a working relationship with one another for three years or so. All projects are structured towards long-term activities that will last after ORBIS assistance has been completed. Donors around the world provide expertise and funding to partners in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Nepal, Vietnam, South Africa, Zambia and many more.