Love blossomed for Peter and Cheryl Pitzer at the controls of a FedEx charter plane.
The now-married pilots met in 1999 when Peter, 55, was a flight engineer and Cheryl, 52, was a first officer for FedEx.
- 1February 13, 2020
After training together, the couple fell in love, managed their busy international flight schedules together for more than a decade, and finally married in 2011.
In the years since becoming husband and wife, the Pitzers have been using their piloting skills to help people around the world regain sight.
They are both volunteer pilots for Orbis, a non-profit organization that turns airplanes into mobile teaching hospitals and brings eye care and ophthalmology training to places around the world, according to its website.
The organization's Flying Eye Hospital that the Pitzers fly together is a fully-accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft that was donated by FedEx, according to Orbis.
"I’m about to take my mother to get cataract surgery and for us [in the U.S.] it’s nothing," Cheryl told "Good Morning America." "For so many in the developing nations it’s everything, so it’s pretty amazing to be such a small part of a big vision, literally and figuratively, and be able to give back."
The Pitzers flew their first flight together with Orbis in November, a journey that took them from Dubai to Saudi Arabia and finally to Ghana, a country in West Africa that is still plagued by malaria and faces "rural‐urban disparities in health care services," according to the United Nations.
The couple stayed an extra week after landing the plane in order to be on the ground to help other Orbis volunteers treat people in need, and to train medical staff in the community.
"There was a woman named Mary and when we met her on Monday she was almost completely blind and when we left she could see," recalled Peter. "It was incredible."
"They also did surgeries in the local hospitals with the local staff and doctors and their equipment, and they provide continuing education afterwards," Cheryl said of the team's work in Ghana. "The idea is to leave the knowledge behind so that people will have access to proper eye care after the plane is gone."
"When Orbis trains doctors to do surgeries to help people, those people then help their families, and it helps economic development and the future of these countries that have lack of access to health care and things that we take for granted," she said.
The Pritzers are next scheduled to fly together with Orbis to Zambia in May.
The Dallas-based couple, who occasionally are in the cockpit together for FedEx flights, say they are grateful to share an occupation that they love -- one they can do together and that allows them to give back.
"It’s awesome that we can share that experience together, to be there and see that together," said Peter. "Cheryl and I have a great personal and working relationship and to be able to fly together and do stuff like this together, it's just an interesting and incredible way to give back."
Cheryl noted the intense planning and coordination it takes to fly a major plane carrying a teaching hospital to sometimes-remote locations. She said she and her husband have an advantage with that complex task because they "understand each other."
"We can get in the cockpit even though we don’t fly together a lot, and it makes that part go easy and so that makes it enjoyable," Cheryl said. "And we know we’re getting there safely and everything is going to be done the right way."
"It's a great feeling," she said. "I’m looking forward to many more years, I hope."