Ten things you may not know about Orbis's Flying Eye Hospital

Our Flying Eye Hospital spreads hope and raises awareness wherever it flies. To celebrate it, we thought we'd put together ten little known facts about the plane.


Since our maiden flight to China in 1982 we’ve had three Flying Eye Hospitals, converted from cargo planes - a DC-8, DC-10, and our current MD-10, which was donated by Fed-Ex and took to the skies in 2016.

Interview: Holly Peppe Former Orbis Director of External Affairs


The FEH is a fully accredited hospital, which is made up of nine modular units. These units can be removed – meaning it is classed as freight, saving 30% on admin costs. It also means the rooms can be reused in another plane.


A routine 20-minute operation can take up to four hours on the FEH as we make sure local eye care professionals are given the time needed to learn new techniques.

The team in training.


The FEH has a 46-seater classroom onboard, allowing even more people to train at the same time. Students wear 3D glasses so observing feels like they’re actually in the operating room next door.

The Flying Eye Hospital classroom, in the belly of the plane, where normal plane seats stretch back


There is also an advanced audio-visual suite onboard so surgeries can be broadcast around the world via our telemedicine platform, Cybersight.

A Cybersight live video consultation


The FEH is at the forefront of technological innovation to help change the way the world sees, including state-of-the-art simulation equipment – allowing ophthalmology teams to learn complex skills in a controlled environment.

Virtual reality simulation.


The FEH is entirely self-sufficient with its own generator and hospital-grade air and water purifiers – meaning it can provide high quality care in even the most impoverished places.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital MD-10 generators


Wherever the FEH goes, it creates a media storm and attracts the attention of local and national governments – making it a great advocate for keeping eyecare on the public health agenda.


The FEH has been graced with the presence of many famous people over the years, including Mother Teresa, Fidel Castro, Daniel Craig and HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh.


Receiving surgery on board a plane can be scary for our younger visitors. Every child receives a stuffed teddy called Seymour to comfort them – he is even given a patch on the same eye that the child does!

In 2020, the FEH will be visiting Zambia, Cameroon, India, Mongolia and the UK. Keep an eye on our website for further updates.

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