Val’s Travels

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Confucius

 

Blog 3:

Written in Can Tho, Vietnam

As I continue my journey around the world, I have literally flown all the way around the world going West and East!

In November 2016, I took off from San Francisco and went back to the Philippines to pick up the plane. Our medical program in Indonesia was canceled. The reasons are not always clear, but at some point, our hosts could not agree on our program. While in Clark, the FEH Team (Flying Eye Hospital) worked on the plane doing inventory and getting the plane ready for another Good Will Tour in Singapore.

We had some great press in Singapore, including this FedEx media report. I got to reconnect with Fred Newlin, the FedEx Sr. Manager of Aircraft Maintenance in Singapore. It’s always fun to show off the plane to FedEx employees. They are so proud to see the plane and know that they are helping Orbis.

The Singapore office put on a lovely Gala event and raised lots of money for our cause.

After the tours, the plane stayed in Singapore for our 1st maintenance check since we launched in June. Every 6 months we have a check due. Each time we rotate through inspections on different parts of the plane. This one included an inspection of the lower bladder fuel cell. This extended our stay. Our check started December 26th and we finished January 14th.

Singapore was decked out for the holidays. There were so many Christmas decorations, but with the heat and humidity, it never really felt like Christmas. On Christmas day, I went out to dinner with some of the girls from the Orbis office, Jasmine and Cynthia.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spending time in Singapore, brought back many memories from previous visits. I had several occasions where I felt “as if I’d been there before”. The last time I was in Singapore was around 1982 when I took a trip with my mom and dad. Dad was flying the trip and mom and I were tagging along… in First Class on a Pan Am 747… the only way to travel! Mom and I stayed in Singapore a few days while my dad flew to Australia and then back to Singapore where he picked us up, and we back to SFO. We walked all around the city, did lots of shopping and drank Singapore Slings in the Long Bar at the Raffles hotel. Of course the Raffles hotel and the Long Bar were about the only thing that had stayed the same in Singapore.

The first difference I noticed was the Merlion was not in the same place, it had been moved. Turns out, Singapore is one of those places that has filled in the sea and expanded their shores. Yes, that’s true, Singapore has added many miles of landfill to create more area for buildings, shops, and airports. Beach Street is still Beach Street, but it is no longer on the beach! Ocean Street, no longer on the Ocean.  

The second difference was the airport. We had flown into Peya Lebar, a military airbase that has an area across the road for the ST Aerospace hangars. One of the Engineers was talking and said he used to work for Pan Am and Flying Tigers, we compared notes and knew a lot of the same people. He most likely knew my dad. He mentioned that Peya Lebar used to be the International airport, and the new International Airport was built in the mid-80s on landfill. So, I had been there before, when I landed there with mom and dad on that Pan Am flight.

The third thing that brought back memories was when I went to buy a camera. A girl from the local Orbis office, Shen, offered to help me in my search for the perfect camera. I told her what I wanted, a Sony RX100 (highly recommended by Pat Chan, often referred to by fellow 99s as our camera guru). Shen did some research and we ended up at a small shopping center downtown. It was one of the few buildings that had not been torn down and modernized. We walked in and the center of the building was open, the escalators were in the center and the camera shop was on the second floor. And there it was, Cathay Photo. As soon as I walked in, I felt I had been there before. I’m sure it is a place I went with my dad. He was always buying cameras and gadgets on his trips.

I celebrated my birthday after a long day getting the plane ready to fly after the maintenance check. The Pilots, John, Bruce and the girls from the local office were on hand to help eat cake. On January 14th we flew to Clark Airport in the Philippines and I had another party. The staff at the Quest hotel, new it was my birthday and they all greeted me with birthday wishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A quick trip back home and then back to Clark again to continue the journey. This time to Ireland, England and Qatar for Good Will tours. It was this leg that brought me around the world.

San Francisco, Clark, Philippines; Bangkok, Thailand; Dubai, UAE, Dublin Ireland; Stansted, England; Doha, Qatar; Dallas, San Francisco.

In February 2017, we left Clark for Dubai. It took several attempts to get off the ground. My airplane didn’t want to fly. We could not get our APU to work, so ground operations required a ground power cart and air start cart. We flew to Bangkok for a fuel stop and then overnight in Dubai. In Bangkok we were parked for refueling and a white 767 taxied in front of us on the taxi way, they stopped right in front of us. Apparently we were a little late in our schedule and they were supposed to park in our spot. Then we noticed some weird painting on the side of the plane. Turns out it was a charter plane for the band Guns and Roses. More to this story after we get to Stansted. We continued on to Dubai for the night and took off for Dublin the next day.

When we landed in Dublin, Ireland, it was cold and raining and almost snowing! I had to go buy a warm coat. The Irish office was so nice and did a great job with the tours. We visited the town, drank Guinness and Jamison Whiskey! We parked behind the FedEx plane and the FedEx manager was our escort the whole time we were there. It was great fun.

Click here to read the Dublin media report. ORBIS – FEH – Dublin Coverage Report

Trying to keep warm in Dublin, photo with the Airport fire department and with the FedEx ground crew and flight crew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a week, we were off to Stansted. The UK office welcomed us with open arms. We parked at the Diamond Hangar. A private hangar for VIPs. We parked outside and were allowed to walk through the hangar, but we couldn’t take photos or linger buy the fancy private jets. Well, one of those fancy jets was the one chartered by Guns and Roses. Kelly was our escort in the hangar, and it was her job to put on the decals for the clients. The jet could be changed to look like anything the clients wanted. Members of the Guns and Roses band saw our plane, and wanted to know who we were… besides being the plane that took their parking spot in Bangkok!

While in Stansted we had great support from the FedEx maintenance team. Paul Morris and his team, checked on us every day and worked on getting our APU running. One day we had a FedEx Family day and a MD11 was nose to nose with the MD10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had successful tours ending with a tour by Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex, Sofie.

http://hrhcountessofwessex.blogspot.com/2017/03/hrh-visits-orbis-flying-eye-hospital-at.html

She has chosen Orbis to be her ‘charity’. She had been on the DC10 many times, and wanted to visit the MD10. So even though it was packed for flight, she came out on our preflight day and met us and the pilots. She loved the plane and said she would be going to our program in Bangladesh, later in the year.

Here’s another link to media in the UK.

https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2017/may/12/the-life-changing-flying-eye-hospital-treating-blindness-across-the-globe

The next day we took off for Doha, Qatar. We were going to Doha for more Good Will Tours and it is because of the Countess that we were invited. Doha was beautiful we stayed at a hotel within walking distance to the airport. We were at the ‘old’ airport, which is now an airport for VIPs and private planes. I was going to say jets, but there was a flight school across the field and several single/multi engine planes and helicopters were busy in the pattern every day.

Doha

In addition to the tours the airplane was used for a Preferred Practice workshop. They did some simulated surgeries on fake eyes. They said the eyes were so realistic that this will soon be the preferred way to teach surgery. The workshops were also broadcast through Cybersight and reached doctors all around the world. Our VF’s communicate to their trainees Cybersight. It is being used more and more as technology advances. It was very cool to watch.

Doha FedEx Team

Orbis 1 from the VIP terminal in Doha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, we parked the plane again and I headed home for a few weeks. Doha to Dallas to San Francisco, making this my third time to fly around the world in one direction.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog 2:

Written on the airplane from the Philippines to Dubai, February 26, 2017.

August 2016 was spent at Moffett Field, in Cupertino, CA. We were busy getting the plane ready to fly to China for the first medical program on the MD10. Working on the engines, working on the ground equipment, restocking the medical supplies; the airplane was a hub of activity. We even had to get the final certifications from the FAA. This included demonstrating to the FAA our evacuation plan. So, one day we put out a big blue tarp… this represented the water.  Then we simulated an in-flight emergency over water and the two pilots had to evacuate the aircraft with the life raft we carry on board. There were certain time limits and procedures they had to follow, it was all very official as the FAA watched and recorded our actions. The flight crew had to carry the raft down the stairs, inflate it, and identify the items on the raft. This is what it looks like and all the emergency equipment is tied to the raft. I have never actually seen on inflated.

 

 

 

 

 After the Feds left, we had some crew training about emergency procedures, and then some fun…..

Pilot Gary is carrying the coffee pot and Captain David is saving the Teddy Bear. Director Bruce, didn’t quite make it into the raft, so we are pulling him in.

 

 

Everyone got out safe, including Teddy. Pictured left to right are our staff; Leo, Antonio, Katie, Ronald, Elisa, Xiao Ying, Dave, Gary, Mohammed, John, Solomon, Gangadhar, Celia and Bruce.

 

 

Many friends came to see the plane including the Santa Clara 99s and of course some of my Santa Rosa 99s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On September 1, 2016, we took off from Moffett Field in Cupertino, CA to Anchorage. We refueled in Anchorage and then flew to Shenyang, China.  We had about 20 people flying with us, including some Orbis Board members, VF’s, a FedEx media journalist, Orbis staff and extra pilots. 

When we landed in Shenyang, we were greeted with red banners, ladies with flower bouquets, our planning team and so many dignitaries. 

There are several write-ups and video links that show off the plane during its first program.

Here are a few to watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HS6gX59eMo8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWFJ2_YBNuo

https://www.novartis.com/stories/global-impact/new-orbis-flying-eye-hospital-helps-fight-blindness-china

Shenyang FEH program brochure_EN_Aug 31

Shenyang Airport

The Volunteer Faculty (VF, Doctors who do the surgery and training), nurses and medical personnel were all very happy with the new hospital. There were surgeries for cataract, retina, and cornea. We were working with the local hospital and the He University Eye Hospital. We had some long days, but all in all the hospital was great. The first day of the program, the medical staff heads to the local hospital for patient screening, this is where they decide which patients will be chosen for the surgery. We select the patient based on several things, first, is it the best ‘teaching’ case.  Will the VF be able to show the best scenario for the procedure? Second, is the patient blind in both eyes? Third, are they in financial need? If they cannot afford treatment, Orbis will select them. There is no cost to any of the patients selected; everything is covered by Orbis through the generous donations of our corporate sponsors, and individual donors. For example, for as little as $25, a cataract surgery can be performed and change the life of an individual. Of the people who are blind in the world, 80 percent of them can have their vision restored through a simple surgery like cataract.

Rachel who used to work for me when I was in Beijing, came to visit the plane. 

Orbis has Country offices all around the world. The major focus is awareness and fund development. Our new CEO wants the plane to visit these offices and donors every couple of years.

After Shenyang we went to Hong Kong. The Hong Kong office was so great and we had the plane open for tours and media events for 10 days. There were so many donors in Hong Kong that wanted to see the plane; they had to be chosen by random drawing. We had over 3000 people come through the plane. For the past 5 years, the donors in Hong Kong have supported the new plane during its build and development. Some families donated money to cover the costs of the Laser room, the sub sterile room, the admin room. All these people came to the plane and they were so happy to see the hospital and the new MD10.  One lady who was in her 80s, climbed the stairs and had so many questions about the plane, she stopped in each area and talked to the staff, asked questions, and made observations. She was so proud to have been a part of this new plane, and so happy to finally see it.

Pictured are the Orbis staff from Hong Kong, the FEH and many much appreciated volunteers who help with the tours.

After Hong Kong, we flew to Macau for more tours and to meet more donors. The flight has to be one of the shortest. We barely took off and we were in the pattern for Macau. The office there has 3 people and a lot of volunteers. We had a great time, roaming around the old parts of the city. The city also has a modern side and looks like Las Vegas. There is one area that is only hotels and casinos. You walk for blocks and never go outside.  Lots of high end designer shops, restaurants, and always good people watching. 

We had to cut our time short by a day when we found out there was a typhoon headed our way. We packed up all of our equipment in the pouring rain. As soon as our crew showed up, we headed out. The typhoon stretched from the Philippines to Hong Kong. And we were headed to the Philippines!  We diverted our flight plan and flew from Macau to Denang, Vietnam, spent the night and left the next day for Clark Airport in the Philippines. Our plan worked, as it was sunny and bright for our flights.

View from my hotel in Denang.

We parked the plane, closed it up and got ready to come home for a break. Clark airport is the old Clark Air Force Base. It is now a public airport and the base is a resort area. There are many golf courses and hotels and casinos.  We stayed at the Quest hotel.  It’s not fancy, but everyone that works there is so kind to us.

One of our nurses on the plane, Leo lives near Clark. His wife Remy brings us lumpia and pancit every time we fly in or out… it’s so good.  It’s always great when family members can see the plane. Leo’s wife and daughter are both eye nurses.

Val;

Blog 1:

As many of you know, I have started to travel again. It all started in May 2016. I retired from FedEx after 31 years in Aircraft Maintenance and started with Orbis International the same month.  Orbis was launching their 3rd Generation Flying Eye Hospital, a MD10 aircraft donated by FedEx. It took 8 years for the new plane to come to fruition, and June 3, 2016, was the official launch at the Los Angeles airport.

LAX

I first saw the new plane at the San Bernardino airport when it was being painted. The new paint job was beautiful!

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Our LAX Launch was a Hollywood Gala event, with movie stars, doctors and Orbis employees from around the world. We had a reunion with employees and said good bye to the DC10 and welcomed the MD10 with a gala event. Here are photos of the DC10.

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After LAX we embarked on a grueling schedule of Good Will Tours (GWT). We went to McClellan airport in Sacramento and showed the plane to our guests at UC Davis.  Many of our Volunteer Faculty (VF) come from UC Davis Medical Center. Here are some photos from McClellan, with the 99s and friends.

dsc_0152 Next we flew to Memphis and I had my first flight on the new plane, it was awesome flying in the cockpit.  We unveiled the airplane to our FedEx partners, team members and employees.  I even had my photo taken with Fred Smith. I told him it was an honor to work for  him for 31 years, and thanked him for the support he has shown to Orbis.  Then, he thanked me, and told me how proud he was that I was continuing to work for Orbis and promised to continue his support.  I share several videos with Mr. Smith regarding Orbis. Click here to watch the video made a few years ago.

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Val and Fred Smith Memphis was fun, and it was great to see some of my old friends. I’d like to thank you all for your support and all the dinners ya’ll bought for me. Thanks to the Memphis AMTs who helped me on engine #2 with the fuel pump change.  Funny that on my very first trip with the Orbis DC10 we flew to Memphis and also had to change the #2 Fuel pump.

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Our next stop was Newark, New Jersey. The maintenance team greeted me and quickly helped with whatever was needed. We had a day off, and I went to New York City to visit the 911 Museum. It was an overwhelming experience and brought tears to my eyes.

 

The next day we flew to Washington D.C, Reagan Airport. This was no easy task. We had to have special permits, flight plans and specific landing/takeoff times. It was very beautiful flying in over the city. I had the pleasure of showing the plane to my friends, Darcy and Karen Reed, who now live near D.C.

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After D.C. we were on our way to Fort Worth. Our hotel was in the old Stockyards area and there were horses and longhorn bulls walking the streets.  We did more tours and had the last of some really good Mexican food for a long time. 

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Next stop, Moffett Federal Airfield.  How excited was I to have the plane in Northern California.  My friend Pat, who works really close to Moffett, actually snapped a photo as we were on final and she was outside taking a break.  I got to take a couple of weeks off and time to get things ready at home, as I knew it would be a while before I got home again.  The airfield at Moffett has been leased by Google and there seems to be a lot of secret stuff going on. NASA Ames is still there, as are the old blimp hangers. Our plane was parked near the 101, and everyone driving by could see it. We got a lot of news coverage and did a lot of maintenance to get everything ready for our first program.

My friends, the 99s and old FedEx coworkers got to visit the plane. I just love to show it off. The new hospital is amazing and will do great things to rid the world of avoidable blindness. FedEx comes to the rescue again with tooling, equipment and manpower. And again I am up on #2 engine. Better here, than someplace with out the proper equipment.

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It’s sure to be a great adventure and I am looking forward to this new phase of my life.  It’s been fun to reconnect with old friends and make new friends.

Next stop: Shenyang, China

The best is yet to come.

Val