Eye in the Sky: Rockwell Collins supports Orbis Flying Eye Hospital’s mission to fight blindness

It’s unlike any other aircraft in the world.

From the outside, it looks like a typical jumbo jet but peek inside and you’ll see an operating room, state-of-the-art 3D and 4D technology, a laser center and more. The aircraft is home to the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital—the world’s only fully accredited mobile ophthalmic teaching hospital on board a McDonnell Douglas (MD-10) aircraft.

Orbis, an international nonprofit, is on a mission to end avoidable blindness. Founded in 1982, leaders in the medical and aviation industries realized that the high costs of tuition, international travel and expensive accommodations were preventing many physicians in under-resourced countries from participating in overseas training programs. Together, they forged a unique alliance focused on fighting preventable blindness.

“One of our main goals is to build the capacity of local hospitals and ophthalmic teams in under-resourced areas to provide high quality eye care,” said Jennifer Snyder, corporate development officer at Orbis. “We go in and train doctors, nurses, biomedical technicians and community health workers to create a sustainable eye care/medical program, and advocate for the importance of eye health around the world.”

The organization uses a variety of programs, including its unique Flying Eye Hospital, to accomplish its mission. “The Flying Eye Hospital represents about 20% of our work and it gives us an incredible platform. The aircraft not only enables our expert volunteers to train local eye care teams in their own country, but it also serves as a powerful tool for raising awareness and creating change.”

The aircraft is involved with programs on the ground and in the air—which is where Rockwell Collins’ involvement begins. The company provides its ARINCDirectSM communications services for the Flying Eye Hospital’s training and goodwill trips around the world.

The two organizations began working together with Orbis’ acquisition of its new MD-10 aircraft. “We try to use technology as effectively as possible and the MD-10 gives us the ability to do more,” said Jennifer. “We turned to Rockwell Collins’ ARINCDirect for support because it’s known as a leading provider of innovative connectivity services, which makes it an ideal partner.”

Rockwell Collins was able to provide Orbis with a number of key services that were previously unavailable, as well as help address some communication and reporting issues it was experiencing.

“We need to communicate key status information with our main office and others when our MD-10 is on a trip,” said Bruce Johnson, director, Aircraft Operations and Maintenance, at Orbis. “Ensuring everyone is aware of the aircraft’s status is vitally important to us.”

Timothy Sitkauskas, manager, ARINCDirect Flight Operations at Rockwell Collins, explains. “Every time the Flying Eye Hospital lifts off the ground or touches down, it transmits a message over our network indicating its status, such as,`The aircraft has departed Dubai’ or `The aircraft has arrived in London.’ ARINCDirect relays these messages to a distribution list established by Bruce, ensuring everyone who needs the information has it.”

The ARINCDirect service also enables inflight communications, allowing free text messages between the cockpit and the ground. Texts can be sent to a cell phone or email address and, once received, can be shared among different individuals on the account. “The crew can send a text message such as, ‘Our ETA to Dublin has pushed 10 minutes due to weather over Turkey and is now 2:10 p.m.,’” notes Sitkauskas.

The inflight communications helps with other operational aspects as well. “The Flying Eye Hospital could be en route and the flight crew could relay a message to the ground indicating they have a maintenance issue. That enables Bruce to proactively address the problem instead of waiting until the aircraft lands to figure out what’s happening,” said Sitkauskas.

Rockwell Collins also enables Orbis to track the Flying Eye Hospital as it moves from location to location around the world. “Clearly, the aircraft is a tremendous asset for our organization and knowing where it is at all times is incredibly important to us,” notes Johnson.

“The new reporting and communications capabilities are having a very positive impact on our operations,” said Johnson. “Our partnership with Rockwell Collins is a great example of leaders in the medical and aviation industries coming together to make a real difference in the world.”

Story posted: July 24, 2017

Media contact

Orbis Contacts:
Silvana Vivas
Communications Manager

Jennifer Snyder
Corporate Development Officer

IMS media contact

Lisa Nolan

Information Management Services

Media Relations

Phone 1: +410-266-4688

Phone 2: +410-271-4729


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