A unique conglomerate of industry leaders in aviation, healthcare and fashion joined nonprofit organization ORBIS International on February 16 at New York City’s Mandarin Oriental to honor a pioneer in aviation safety, A.L. Ueltschi, with the ORBIS Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant and unique contribution to eliminating unnecessary blindness globally. Along with founding the world’s largest provider of aviation services and training, FlightSafety International, Ueltschi has helped turn a daring vision of using aviation to deliver medical education/training and treatment to the poorest parts of the world into a reality. Through his contributions, especially the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital, ORBIS programs have restored sight to an estimated 22.5 million people worldwide.
“Al has never wavered in his commitment to ORBIS or our sight-saving work,” said Oliver Foot, president and executive director of ORBIS. “He has a humanitarian heart and feels deeply for people who are suffering needlessly. His own generosity has brought sight to millions of people. ORBIS couldn’t possibly be here today without him.”
In the mid-1970s, Ueltschi helped to found ORBIS, secured the donation of a DC-8 aircraft from United Airlines and oversaw the conversion of the DC-8 into a state-of-the-art ophthalmic surgical hospital. Two decades later, led by Ueltschi, donations from aviation and business leaders around the world allowed ORBIS to replace the DC-8 with a wide-body DC-10. The world’s only Flying Eye Hospital has visited more than 70 countries, where ORBIS medical volunteers have trained local country doctors and medical staff on crucial sight-saving skills to prevent blindness or restore sight. Today, Ueltschi remains heavily involved with ORBIS as board chairman and as the guiding force behind its humanitarian mission.
Richard R. Goodmanson, chief operating officer of DuPont, former chief executive officer of America West Airlines and chairman of the ORBIS 2006 Crystal Ball for Sight said, “It’s an extraordinary privilege for me to chair an event which honors A.L. Ueltschi, a legendary aviator, if ever there was one. Through his founding and pioneering of FlightSafety International, he has not only contributed to the safety of flight, but to the very history of aviation.”
The ORBIS 2006 Crystal Ball for Sight recognized industry leaders in healthcare, aviation and fashion eyewear who have made a significant impact in the fight against global blindness through their support of ORBIS programs. Honorees also included Alcon, the global leader in eye care products, and Al Berg, president and CEO of Marchon Eyewear.
Deborah Norville, two-time Emmy Award winner and host of the top-rated newsmagazine Inside Edition, was the evening’s mistress of ceremonies. Guest presenters included internationally-known fashion designer Michael Kors.