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I went to the airport on November 19, 2011 for one reason, and one reason only. I went to get up close and personal with the second DC-10 to roll off the assembly line way back in 1970.

I arrived and began by snapping photos on the pad. Up the ladder into the plane and we were ushered into the seating area at the front of the aircraft. We were told to sit in one of the remaining original forty eight seats and the communications director of ORBIS began to speak.

I sat fascinated as he explained the goals of the ORBIS project. The purpose of the aircraft was not so much to make a small dent in vision problems around the globe, but rather, to bring the teaching skills of the volunteer team of superbly trained doctors and nurses to under-developed countries to teach doctors and nurses in those countries modern skills so that they could make a significant impact in their own countries vision health care.

To accomplish this goal, the plane is equipped as a teaching hospital. Every treatment area of the DC-10 is equipped with video cameras and microphones to link the staff with local health care personnel seated in the lecture hall in the front. The lecture hall is equipped as I mentioned with forty eight of the original aircraft seats. At the front of the hall is a video screen where each operation or treatment can be monitored by the locals.

The room directly behind the theatre is a fully equipped ophthalmology examination and laser treatment room. The staff in this area are able to do the required pre-op examinations and the Ophthalmologist in charge of the laser equipment is able to do any number of procedures requiring laser treatment.

Immediately aft of the treatment room is the operating room. I apologise for the photograph but the room was packed and I tried holding my camera over my head but wasn't too successful. The eye surgeon who talked to us here was so deeply passionate of the work they were doing. He explained the procedure for doing operations first with a local surgeon beside him, then, with him assisting the local while all the while teaching others in the front of the craft. It was simply an amazing speech.

He told how when they were in Calcutta, Mother Teresa came to the plane for a one hour visit and spent most of the next two weeks with the team. When they left she championed the cause for better vision care and equipment in India.

He told how when they were in Karachi, General Zia had come to the plane for a visit and after discussing equipment asked how much something cost. When told that purchase and maintenance would reach fifty thousand dollars he balked until the Doctor pointed out the cost of the line of Apache attack helicopters off the plane’s wing. He liked to think his appeal helped bring needed medical equipment to Pakistan.

At the rear of the plane is the recovery room. It is state of the art, just as is every other piece of medical equipment on the plane. The nurses are amazingly skilled impassioned individuals whose goal is to make a difference in the world.

The ORBIS team is on a mission. A mission to bring hope and light to the darkness of many of the world’s impoverished countries.

oh, and the payoff, I got to sit in the Pilot's seat. :~)

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