ORBIS is saddened to announce the death of Emeritus Board Chairman, Albert L. Ueltschi, who passed away peacefully at his home in Florida on Thursday, October 18. He was 95. Our sympathy and condolences go out to the Ueltschi family.
Al was not only an icon in the aviation industry, but he was also devoted to treating preventable blindness in the developing world. His efforts significantly contributed to the restoration of sight for millions.
In the mid-1970s, Al was instrumental in founding ORBIS International and overseeing the acquisition and conversion of a DC-8 aircraft into the world's only Flying Eye Hospital, which had its first flight in 1982. Two decades later, in an effort led by Al, ORBIS replaced the DC-8 with a wide-body DC-10. Most recently, Al provided the lead donation for ORBIS's latest Flying Eye Hospital, which is scheduled to launch in 2013. He also served as the Chairman of the ORBIS International for many years.
Al's flying ambitions were sealed in 1927, when as a boy he eagerly listened to every news report on the progress of Charles Lindbergh's epic first flight across the Atlantic. While still at school, using his budding entrepreneurial skills, he established a hamburger stand, with the sole purpose of financing his dream of flying. Using the hamburger stand as collateral, at age 18 he purchased his first airplane – a Waco10 – for $3,500 and opened the Frankfort Flying Service on a nearby farm.
A lifelong passion for aviation followed, including more than a quarter of a century with Pan American Airways, in those days by far the world's leading airline. During most of this time, he served as personal pilot to Pan Am founder, Juan Trippe, a respected mentor.
Astutely seeing a gap in the training available for business aviation pilots, he founded FlightSafety International in 1951 from a 10' x 15' room at New York's La Guardia Airport. Today, FlightSafety, a Berkshire Hathaway company, is the world's premier professional aviation training company. The company provides more than a million hours of training each year to pilots, technicians and other aviation professionals from 154 countries and independent territories. FlightSafety operates the world's largest fleet of advanced full flight simulators at Learning Centers and training locations in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Al is one of the most honored figures in aviation, receiving such recognition as the National Business Aircraft Association Award (NBAA) for Meritorious Service to Aviation, the FAA Award for Extraordinary Service, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy and enshrinement in the Aviation Hall of Fame. In 2006, the NBAA created the Al Ueltschi Award for Humanitarian Leadership in recognition of the spirit of service demonstrated by humanitarian leaders within the business aviation community. The award is presented annually during the NBAA Annual Convention.
ORBIS, and those around the world that he has helped, are indebted to Al for his dedication to the treatment of preventable blindness. We admire Al's tremendous achievements in aviation and at ORBIS. We were privileged to have had the benefit of his vision and passion for the past three decades. Al was a remarkable man. He will be missed, but ORBIS will continue our work towards eliminating avoidable blindness.