Our Flying Eye Hospital welcomed its first ever all-female flight crew Cyndhi Berwyn and Cheryl Pitzer

Flying Eye Hospital Celebrates First All-Female Flight Crew

We have some exciting news! Our Flying Eye Hospital welcomed its first ever all-female flight crew last week on a flight between Kingston, Jamaica and Memphis, Tennessee.

Cyndhi Berwyn and Cheryl Pitzer have nearly 80 years of flying experience between them. Gliders, hot air balloons, helicopters, sea planes, single engine, multi engine, fully accredited flying ophthalmic hospitals - there is nothing these two women cannot fly.

Here they are! Meet the fabulous Cyndhi and Cheryl - our first all female flight crew

While this is fantastic news and we’re thrilled to be celebrating alongside these two amazing women, it does pose another question: In 2019, should we still celebrate ‘firsts’ for women in aviation?

We asked Cyndhi and Cheryl what they thought.

It was a clear summer’s day in 1784 when Elizabeth Thible took to the skies in a hot air balloon and became the first woman to fly. French newspapers credited her with the success of the flight, commending her outstanding skill and courage. But more than 200 years later, why do we still celebrate women’s ‘firsts’ in aviation?

Cyndhi Berwyn is one of the most respected and revered pilots at FedEx and (lucky for us!) a long time Orbis volunteer. Cyndhi’s amazing career has spanned more than 40 years, so she’s no stranger to the challenges women face:

Captain Cyndhi Berwyn

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

The year I grad­u­at­ed from col­lege was the first year the mil­i­tary decid­ed to take women pilots. I applied and was accept­ed as one of the first women in the air force.

Unphased by the traditionally male profession, Cyndhi quickly rose through the ranks to become a trainer and evaluator before moving to FedEx in 1985. Now she holds one of the most senior positions a woman has ever held at the company, Senior Manager of Flight Training.

Breaking New Ground

While Cyndhi and fellow FedEx pilot Cheryl’s achievements is exciting for us Orbis, for the two women who have dedicated their lives to aviation, the trip was far from unusual:

Captain Cyndhi Berwyn

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital

For me, it was just like any flight. It’s strange that we’re still talk­ing about women’s firsts, I don’t see fly­ing with Cheryl as dif­fer­ent from fly­ing with any of my colleagues.

A Reason to Celebrate

For Cyndhi and Cheryl, the real reason to celebrate their flight is the sight-saving work they helped to make possible in the Caribbean. Cyndhi said, “For me, this is about having a global impact and being able to make a difference. When we fly with Orbis, we get to see all the good in the world. It’s such an honour to participate!”

Our trip to Jamaica was a huge success thanks to women like Cyndhi and Cheryl. Here at Orbis we’re fortunate to have a number of high profile women leading the charge in the fight against blindness.

I love volunteering for Orbis” Cheryl told us. “So many inspiration women step aboard the Flying Eye Hospital. From senior engineers to some of the world’s leading ophthalmologists and nurses.

It’s shocking to hear that 55% of people living with blindness are women. I’m sure having more women involved in the fight against blindness will help tackle this injustice."

We couldn’t agree more Cheryl! Which is why we’re working alongside partners to help women overcome the barriers they face accessing quality eye care, and have made overcoming this inequality a strategic priority.

We’re sure that with women like Cheryl and Cyndhi behind our mission, the future is looking bright for women and eye care.

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