From 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.

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.

Val