FedEx Express, a division of FedEx, and its founder Fred Smith are the recipients of the NBAA’s Al Ueltschi Humanitarian Award, presented at yesterday’s opening ceremonies. For more than 30 years, NBAA said, FedEx has been the leading aviation sponsor of the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, which travels the world with dedicated eye care professionals and aviators to give the gift of sight to people in developing countries.
FedEx is expanding its commitment to the project by outfitting a new Flying Eye Hospital on an MD-10-30 freighter donated by FedEx. The MD-10-30, the world’s only airplane with a state-of-the-art eye hospital on board, features a modular design concept to advance both the requirements for aviation and medical certification.
“FedEx and Fred Smith have steadfastly supported aviation and many important humanitarian endeavors through the years,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “NBAA has been proud to have FedEx as a member company since 1983, because the company has continually represented the values and professionalism NBAA has promoted since its inception.”
James Parker, executive vice president of air operations at FedEx Express and a member of the Orbis board of directors, accepted the award given by NBAA in recognition of the use of airplanes in support of humanitarian activities in the U.S. and around the world. FedEx pilots volunteer to fly the current Orbis DC-10 to help medical programs around the world, to train other volunteer pilots, to provide maintenance and mechanical services and a variety of other assignments with international Orbis teams. “We’re taking our work to the next level by creating the next-generation Flying Eye Hospital,” he said, “which will significantly improve the lives of millions of people around the world who otherwise would have been blind, but now will experience the gift of sight.”
Parker explained that humanitarian work FedEx delivers working with Orbis is one of the company’s longest running nonprofit partnerships and reflects Smith’s devotion to aviation as well as his and the company’s commitment to charitable community service. Smith learned to fly as a teenager, is a member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame and has served as chairman of the board of governors of the International Air Transport Association and the U.S. Air Transport Association. Smith also has received numerous honors for his business, civil and humanitarian activities.
NBAA’s Ueltschi Humanitarian Award was established in 2006 in honor of Al Ueltschi, founder of FlightSafety International, whose lifetime of dedication to philanthropic causes set a high bar for giving back to communities. Last year’s winner was former senate majority leader Bill Frist, for his use of airplanes to provide life-saving medical services in the U.S., Africa, Haiti and other parts of the world. Other past recipients include the Cessna Citation Special Olympics Airlift, the Corporate Angel Network and the Veterans Airlift Command. o