Did Helen Keller fly a plane?

(Photo Credit: New York Times Co./Getty Images and Helen Keller Film Corporation/Youtube Screenshot)

She did it.

An illness at 19 months left Helen Keller deaf, blind and mute. However, these disabilities did not prevent her from enjoying great success in her life. With the help of teacher Anne Sullivan, Keller was able to communicate effectively with the world and became an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. Along with many other accomplishments, Keller was able to do what many able women have never had the opportunity to do: fly an airplane!

Early skepticism

American lecturer and writer, Helen Adams Keller (1880 – 1968), on her graduation day from Radcliffe College, Massachusetts, circa 1904. (Photo credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Growing up, Helen Keller faced a significant amount of skepticism for a number of reasons. People wondered if she really was deaf, blind and mute. They also asked how, if someone had these conditions, they could possibly accomplish all the things Keller had in their life.

Keller had found great success as an author, writing his first book in 1903 and publishing many more in his lifetime. She also graduated from college in 1904. Her detractors wondered how she achieved such achievements.

Not his first flight

Helen Keller and Polly Thomson in skirts hold hands from the plane

With her partner, Miss Polly Thomson (right), Helen Keller prepares to board a plane at Idlewild Airport, April 30, on the first leg of an eight-week tour of America from South. (Photo credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

Keller had gained considerable popularity in the press, both at home and abroad, allowing him to experience air travel. Few women of Keller’s generation would ever have flown. Her first flight dates back to 1919, when a biographical film about her, Issuancewanted to show her doing “normal” people (even though the women almost never stole).

Keller developed a taste for flying and flew a handful of times before her flight in 1946. She once said that an airplane was “a tall, graceful bird navigating the limitless skies.” It’s no wonder she continued to fly a plane herself.

Delivery of orders

Helen Keller in an airplane with a man behind her

Helen Keller boards an airplane in the 1919 biographical silent film, “Deliverance” (Photo credit: Helen Keller Film Corporation / Youtube Screengrab)

While flying from Rome to Paris on a tour of Europe to promote the cause of people with blindness, she was given the controls of a Douglas Skymaster. For 20 minutes over the Mediterranean Sea, Keller piloted the aircraft.

With the help of her companion, Polly Thomson, she was guided by the pilot’s instructions through a manual ‘speech’. His light touch on the controls surprised the crew on board. Thomson told the Glasgow Bulletin“There was no shaking or vibration. She just sat there and flew the plane calmly and steadily. Keller made her own remark, saying how “wonderful it was to feel the movement delicate of the plane through the controls”.

More about us: The last inspirational message Amelia Earhart wrote to her husband on his last flight

Keller isn’t the only deafblind in history to have flown an airplane. In 2012, 15-year-old Katie Inman, who primarily uses tactical sign language like Keller, piloted a plane en route to Florida. Deafblindness couldn’t stop these women from accomplishing an incredible feat: flying a plane!

Comments are closed.