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Flying eye hospital, parked at Fort Worth's Alliance Airport, restarts in-person learning

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital parked outside Fort Worth’s Alliance Airport
Orbis Flying Eye Hospital parked outside Fort Worth’s Alliance Airport 02:31

FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - It's a hospital in the air.

Right now, the worlds only accredited teaching aircraft, Orbis Flying Eye Hospital is parked at Fort Worth's Alliance Airport. 

The international non-profit organization has been around since 1982 and trains eye care professionals all across the world. Now, they are restarting in-person learning for the first since the pandemic began. 


"It can fly anywhere in the world, it has all the capabilities that any jet does," said Bruce Johnson, director of aircraft operations for Orbis International. 

Inside the MD-10, there's rows of seats for lectures, then towards the middle and back of the plane, an operating and recovery room. 

This two-week program in Fort Worth focuses on cataract extraction techniques, using the latest technology. 

"We can input imperfections in the eye and then use a computer-generated model in a computer generated simulation where they can search for those imperfections," said Johnson. 

This is the first time Orbis has held in-person training since the pandemic began, oddly enough, the last time the non-profit was here in Fort Worth is when everything shut down March of 2020. 

"Just continue on where we sort of left off, so that was sort of the decision-making process there and as you can imagine there is still a lot of countries working through the COVID-19 pandemic issue," added Johnson. 

Like in the Caribbean, where there are four dozen participants from those countries learning here. 

"The ability to do this in preparation for the real thing is absolutely amazing," said Dr. Renee Badroe from Jamaica. 

Badroe said she'll take what she learns here to help her country, "We do have a lot more patients who are sick and a lot more patients who have eye conditions that need treatment and need service so we can take information that we gathered here and take it back home and show our other co-residents and ophthalmologists what we learned and to help better serve Jamaica."

The non-profit said more than a billion people worldwide live with vision loss, 90% of which is avoidable. 


This mission - life changing. 

One story being a grandfather now able to get a glimpse of his grandchild after surgery. 

"The both of them have never seen each other before and we did a surgery on him and saw each other for the first time, pretty cool," said Johnson.

This Orbis jet will be in Fort Worth until October when it will fly to California for its next training project. 

One of Orbis' biggest sponsors is Fort Worth-based Alcon, an eye care manufacturer. 

To learn more about their mission, click here.

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