A determined woman has made history by becoming the world’s first licensed armless pilot as she can fly a plane with her legs.
Ms Jessica Cox, from Tuscon, Arizona, USA, is also a former dancer and double black belt in Tai Kwon-Do.
She is the world’s first licensed armless pilot, as well as the first armless black-belt holder in the American Taekwondo Association.
She was born in Arizona without arms due to a rare birth defect.
Jessica Cox graduated from the University of Arizona in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in communications. Jessica Cox suffered a rare birth defect and was born without any arms.
The psychology graduate can write, type, drive a car, brush her hair and talk on her phone simply using her feet.
Cox flew in a single engine airplane for the first time via Wright Flight in 2005. Cox earned her pilot’s certificate on October 10, 2008, after three years of training, and is qualified to fly a light-sport aircraft to altitudes of 10,000 feet. She received her flight training through an Able Flight scholarship and soloed under the instruction of Parrish Traweek.
At the age of 10, Cox began training in taekwondo at a school in her home town of Sierra Vista. A1 14, she earned her first black belt. While in college at the University of Arizona Cox restarted her taekwondo training at an American Taekwondo Association club on campus.
In an effort to help future students without the use of arms the instructors created an entire training curriculum by modifying the standard material from the ATA.
“I never say, ‘I can’t do that’. I just say, ‘I haven’t worked it out yet,’” said Jessica.
“Putting my hair in a pony tail and rock climbing are still on my list. Those rubber hair ties get me every time.”
She explained “I was born this way so I’ve just learned to adapt.”
“When I was born my parents were shocked. But they never made me feel like I was any different.
“Other people always stared at me or made comments but I turned negative feelings into something positive. It’s made me very driven.”
The only thing she was afraid of was flying.
She said: “I’ve been terrified and fascinated of flying for as long as I can remember.
“I remember at school I couldn’t go on the swings or monkey bars because they were impossible for me to play on.
“I used to shut my eyes and imagine myself flying over the playground like Superwoman instead.”
She grew up worried every time she had be an aeroplane passenger.
But three years ago she was given the chance to overcome her fears.
She said: “A fighter pilot, who represents the charity Wright Flight asked me if I’d like to try flying one myself.
“At first I thought he was nuts. I would have been scared enough if I had arms, let alone without them.
“But he kept insisting I would love it and so I started to see it as the ultimate challenge.”
She learned to fly in rudderless light Ercoupe aircraft, where you only need your hands to control it rather than both hands and feet.
She took three years instead of the usual six months to complete her lightweight aircraft licence, had three flying instructors and practiced 89 hours of flying.
She said: “The first time my instructor let me take the controls I remember being terrified but I was hooked immediately.
“Most people were encouraging – but some thought I was taking a dangerous risk. I had to be very determined and persistent.
“It took me three hard years to complete – but it is the most fantastic feeling in the world.
Ms Cox is now training to become an instructor – so she can help other disabled people learn to fly.
“There are so many ways that disabilities can make people believe that they ‘can’t’ achieve their dreams,” said Jessica, who has not used artificial arms since she was 13.
“But I’m evidence that you can.”