How did Helen Keller fly a plane?

In June 1946, a plane traveled from Rome to Paris, crossing over the Mediterranean Sea. There was nothing unusual about this flight except for one thing: For 20 minutes into the plane’s flight, one of its passengers became its pilot. The passenger was Dr. Helen Keller, an American author, educator, and activist who had been blind and deaf since childhood.

Although many women of her generation rarely, or never, fly by plane, this was not Keeler’s first time in the air. Her first trip as a female traveler took place in 1919 on the set of a movie enoughIt is a biographical film about her life, in which she actually appeared. Although Keeler was known throughout the United States by the time she was 16, and internationally by the time she was 24, some audiences still questioned the ability of a blind and deaf person to successfully communicate with people who could hear. Or graduating from college – both are common occurrences. Keeler really did. To combat these doubts, enoughAs they explained, the producers “wanted to show her doing all those things that she does”. [able-bodied] “People do it”, including “scenes where she dresses, just to show the audience that she can, and in which she sleeps, to prove to the curious that she closes her eyes”. Since the airplane, which was still a new technology at the time, was so popular, the producers decided to show Keeler flying as well.

Although Keeler knew including the scene in an alleged biopic was ridiculous (and often sparred with the production team when she found their script unrealistic), she was thrilled at the chance to fly. a news ticker He recounted the event, possibly as a promotion for the film:

Helen Keller herself was never afraid of physical labor. As a child, she was taught to dive into the ocean with a rope around her waist tied to a stake on the beach. I enjoyed skiing and downhill from the steep New England slopes. She also knows that if it would spark public interest in the abilities of blind people, almost anything she could do to get attention would be justified…. Helen was in the air for half an hour, and she says she feels more physically free than at any other time in her life. .

As flying technology improved, Keeler found more opportunities to feel this physical freedom. In 1931, she was on a long-distance flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Washington, D.C., a 200-mile (322 km) trip that culminated in meeting the President of the United States. New York times She covered the flight, and reported that Keeler likened the plane to “a mighty graceful bird sailing through a boundless sky”.

This takes us back to 1946: the year Helen Keller flew herself.

Keeler and her companion Polly Thompson, who translated Keeler’s speech for the others and spoke to Keeler by pressing symbols in her hand, were traveling to Europe (and later India, Africa, and the Middle East) on behalf of IDA. outside blind. When the small plane crossed the Mediterranean Sea, Keeler took over as the pilot.

Later I did Tell the story to a Scottish reporter In the same way you piloted the ‘airplane’, by ‘talking’ the hands between it and it [Thomson]Thompson signed off the pilot’s instructions for Keeler as Keeler took charge in the copilot’s seat. “The flight crew were amazed by her sensitive touch on the controls,” Thompson said. I just sat there and flew the plane calmly and steadily. As a pilot, Keeler felt the “fine motion” of the plane better than ever.

Although news coverage treated the flight as a miracle, Keeler isn’t the only deaf-blind person to fly a plane. For example, in 2012, 15-year-old Katie Inman (who, like Keeler, primarily used tactile sign language to communicate) navigate airplane in Florida. A flight instructor assisted her during takeoff and landing, and handed her the controls when the plane came to rest at an altitude of 2,600 feet (about 792 meters).

Questioning the ability of the deaf-blind He didn’t end in Keeler’s life. However, her reputation as a writer, speaker, activist (and one-time pilot) helped remove the social stigma surrounding blindness, which was often associated early in her career with venereal disease. Before Keller, blindness was a taboo subject in women’s magazines. When I became a public figure, even Ladies’ Home Journal She has published her writings on blindness and disability. With Keeler writing books, lecturing, and flying, public ignorance about deafblindness could no longer be left unacknowledged.

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