FedEx Donates $3.5 Million To Keep Orbis MD-10 Eye Hospital Flying

This week, Memphis-based logistics giant FedEx announced that it had made a sizeable donation to the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital. Totaling $3.5 million, this sum will support the organization’s operations for the next five years. It is a hospital like no other, in the sense that it is located not in a building, but rather onboard a McDonnell Douglas MD-10.

Orbis MD-10
Orbis has flown this particular MD-10 for over a decade. Photo: H. Michael Miley via Flickr

FedEx’s substantial donation

Friday, October 8th saw FedEx confirm that it has renewed its support for the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital in the form of a $3.5 million donation. In addition to the financial side of its support, FedEx will also provide assistance in the domains of logistics and operations. This year has also seen Qatar Airways establish a partnership with the organization.

The Flying Eye Hospital is situated onboard a McDonnell Douglas MD-10. As Simple Flying explored last year, this designation refers to DC-10s that have been updated internally to be functionally similar to the newer MD-11. Regarding FedEx’s continued involvement with the hospital, Orbis International’s President and CEO Derek Hodkey stated:

For more than 30 years, FedEx has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to our mission, and we are deeply proud of and grateful for this partnership. The renewed commitment by FedEx will help us to train even more eye care professionals around the world so that they, in turn, can help more people to see.”

Orbis MD-10
The support that FedEx provides Orbis is on more than just a financial level. Photo: FedEx

Orbis: a hospital like no other

But what exactly does the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital do? With a team of more than 400 volunteers, the organization travels around the world on its special MD-10 to provide training to eye care teams to help fight preventable blindness and other conditions.

Orbis worked with projects in nine countries last year. This year, the number is set to hit 20, albeit with the work taking place virtually. FedEx’s involvement is special as it provides aircraft (including parts and maintenance) and pilots/pilot training free of charge. FedEx’s Senior VP of Aviation Safety, Technology & Business Ops, Justin Brownlee, stated:

Orbis’s mission to fight avoidable blindness around the globe is very near and dear to us at FedEx and we are proud to continue our support today. Orbis has made great strides in breaking the vicious cycle of blindness and poverty, and the impact of the organization’s work has changed countless lives around the world.”

Orbis MD-10
The aircraft Orbis uses today has been in service for nearly 50 years. Photo: Cityswift – Ireland via Flickr

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A former FedEx freighter

Let’s conclude by taking a closer look at the aircraft that Orbis currently uses as its Flying Eye Hospital. Registered as N330AU, data from shows that it entered service as a DC-10-30CF in April 1973 with Transamerica Airlines. After 11 years there, it joined FedEx in April 1984, where it underwent its conversion to an MD-10 in September 2001.

The aircraft eventually left FedEx in March 2010, and, just over a year later, it became part of the Orbis operation in April 2011. N330AU remains active today at the impressive age of 48.57 years old. According to data from, it has only flown within the US this year. The plane’s last flight took it from Long Beach to Memphis on October 6th.

What do you make of this gesture from FedEx? Have you ever seen the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital on your travels? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.