Flying Eye Hospital plane taking off

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.

Take a Tour of the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital...

Click the icon in the top right corner to jump to any room on the plane

Equal parts teacher, advocate and envoy in the global effort to end avoidable blindness our state-of-the-art flying teaching hospital allows our world leading volunteers to travel the world sharing knowledge and developing skills with the communities that need it most.

Once a cargo plane, the interior of our third-generation Flying Eye Hospital has been completely transformed thanks to the support of our many generous partners.

Will you help the Flying Eye Hospital train eye care teams around the world?

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Thanks to our generous and compassionate supporters, the Flying Eye Hospital has been a call to action for better eye care around the world for more than three decades. Wherever it lands, it raises awareness, creates change and rallies supporters - from local governments, global organizations, 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 it lands.

Not only does it provide a space to train doctors, nurses, and medical technicians, but it opens the doors of 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 doctors in need of training, improve the lives of those lacking access to care, and not least of all, develop lasting bonds with people around the globe to ensure a 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 linked up through an advanced audio visual system, meaning those in the classroom can watch surgeries happening in the operating theatre live in 3D - making it as close to the real thing as looking down the microscope yourself.

The aircraft also features a state of the art Mobile Simulation Center which uses virtual reality, cutting-edge prosthetics, and highly sophisticated, life-like mannequins, so that eye care teams can build their skills and confidence safely before progressing to real-life surgeries.

But no matter what, Orbis always creates tailored and customized curriculum for the partner hospital's needs based on their equipment's capabilities. Volunteer Faculty train local doctors both on board the aircraft and at the local hospital, providing education that is both high-quality and practical for when the Flying Eye Hospital departs.

And thanks to our telemedicine platform - Cybersight - doctors from all over the world can join our training programs with the click of a button.

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



Project Orbis was launched by Houston ophthalmologist, Dr. David Paton. Motivated by the fact that 80% of the world's visual impairment can be prevented or treated, Dr. Paton recruited a small group of philanthropists, doctors, and aviators to bring to life his bold vision to use aviation to deliver medical education to the eyes of the world.


Eddie Carlson, former chairman of United Airlines, agreed to donate United’s oldest DC- 8 aircraft to the Project. With a grant from USAID and funds from private donors, extensive modifications were made to the plane to convert it into a fully functional teaching eye hospital.


Staffed by a highly-skilled team of ophthalmologists, anesthesiologists, nurses and biomedical technicians, the Orbis DC-8 Flying Eye Hospital took off from Houston, Texas for its first program in Panama in the spring of 1982.


Made possible by donations from three very generous individuals, Orbis purchased a DC-10, which had more than twice the interior space of the original plane. A newer, larger aircraft was needed to accommodate the expanding scope of our programs.


Our Third Generation Flying Eye Hospital took flight. This MD-10 aircraft can fly nearly twice as far as its predecessor, requires only two pilots instead of three, and incorporates some of the most sophisticated ophthalmic training equipment in the world.

Kofi Annan

Secretary General of the United Nations

There are few occa­sions in life when an idea takes off and leads to achieve­ments beyond our wildest expec­ta­tions: when a mis­sion is dri­ven by a vision so clear and com­pelling that it lit­er­al­ly enables oth­ers to see it too. Orbis is one of these.
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