How Did Helen Keller Fly a Plane in 1946?

Helen Keller accomplished a lot in her lifetime. Despite becoming deaf and blind at 18 months of age, she authored multiple books, engaged in outspoken activism, and gave lectures around the world, but one of her more unbelievable achievements was flying a plane. In June 1946, she piloted a 4-engine Douglas Skymaster for 20 minutes of its route over the Mediterranean Sea from Rome to Paris. Keller, a frequent traveler, was in Europe representing the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind. The FAA’s medical standards require airline pilots to have 20/20 vision in both eyes, so many people are surprised to learn that a deaf-blind person flew a plane. In reality, she did so with the help of her interpreter, Polly Thompson. “She sat in the co-pilot’s seat, with the pilot beside her, and I relayed to her his instructions,” said Thompson. She went on to say that Keller flew the plane calmly and steadily, which amazed the plane crew. The achievement was just another feat in her long list of accomplishments.