Two years ago the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) forged a philanthropic partnership with ORBIS International, a non-profit humanitarian organisation that works in developing countries to save sight worldwide.
On announcing the partnership, many APEX members showed an outpouring of support for ORBIS, offering everything from cabling to gifts in kind. One group forwent a Christmas party and made a $5,000 donation instead.
But the passenger experience industry, which boasts expertise in inflight high-speed Internet, mobile connectivity, and inflight displays – and is soaring to new business heights around the world – is perhaps uniquely positioned to help ORBIS.
By the end of this year ORBIS will retire its McDonnell Douglas DC-10 Flying Eye Hospital, and replace it with a MD-10-30 freighter, which has been donated by FedEx. The aircraft has been in Victorville, CA, where the interior of an Omni DC-10 passenger aircraft has been transferred to the freighter to ensure ORBIS has a 50-seat classroom at the front, as well as its required changing rooms and lavs in the back.
ORBIS is having the hospital suite built in freighter containers to minimise certification costs and improve flexibility in an operaton that will surely set some certification milestones in the aviation industry.
I had the opportunity to speak to former ORBIS president – and now director of the MD-10 programme – Jack McHale at the recent APEX EXPO in Long Beach, California.
A tireless supporter of ORBIS, McHale said he attended the EXPO first and foremost to advocate for the organisation. “The travesty is that there is almost 40 million people blind in the world today and 80% of them don’t have to be. Those 32 million [people] are blind because they don’t have access to or can’t afford the care. So that’s what we do. We can do an operation for less than $10, this life-transforming operation. So we want to get that message out. That’s the first message.”
McHale said he also took the opportunity at the EXPO “to thank National Geographic … because Daniel Craig and Omega Watches produced this incredible video that we’d like everybody to see, where Daniel Craig went to Mongolia for two days during a paediatric surgery programme, and it’s unbelievable. It tells the whole ORBIS story and it’s very moving. Discovery did “Mighty Planes”, which featured the ORBIS airplane; it’s really terrific. We thanked Sony because Daniel Craig and Sony – we now have a tangential connection. But everybody has been very positive.”
Craig, in the video referenced by McHale below, notes: “The idea of losing your sight is unimaginable in any situation but if you live in a remote area in the middle of nowhere, losing your sight is nearly a death sentence.”
McHale admits that, whilst the first year of the APEX/ORBIS partnership generated a lot of excitement, the last year saw “kind of a little dip”. But, he notes, the relationship is starting to take off.
If you’d like to be part of this new momentum, and underscore your commitment to supporting ORBIS, please contact the organization at www.orbis.org. For more information about the unique MD-10 programme, please see my interview with McHale below.