In 2008, Jessica Cox received her pilot’s license. This was impressive enough on its own, but made completely amazing by the fact that she did so without arms.
Born without arms due to a rare birth defect, Jessica has refused to let this stop her from achieving her goals. In fact, it has only ever made her more determined to overcome obstacles and redefine what it other people think is possible.
Having taught herself to use her feet as her hands where necessary, Jessica is also a licensed scuba driver, a black belt in Taekwondo, and an all-round inspiration. We here at USTN were lucky enough to be able to ask her a few questions about her experiences as a pilot for the second instalment in our Pioneering Pilots interview series.
Catch up on the first interview here.
Jessica, your story is incredible, and you really are a Pioneering Pilot in the truest sense of the phrase. What first made you want to fly a plane?
Flying was my greatest fear! As a motivational speaker and advising people not to let fear stand in the way of an opportunity, I thought it would be best to demonstrate doing so.
How long did it take you to learn, and what do you feel was the biggest single obstacle or challenge to reaching your incredible goal?
It took three airplanes, three instructors, and flight training in three states over the course of three years to finally become a certified pilot. The biggest single obstacle was learning to land the airplane safely. There is so much involved with landing an airplane in addition to overcoming the apprehension you feel when the earth is coming at you.
Could you please describe for us the feeling of first flying a plane solo, and what it meant to you?
For me, flying solo for the first time was the greatest feeling of freedom, independence and empowerment! I experienced true accountability for my life and it made me a better person.
Aside from being a pilot, you do incredible work as a motivational speaker and mentor to children with similar conditions to yourself. What lessons have you taken from learning to fly a plane that you apply to your other work, or indeed personal life?
One of the lessons I have taken from flying is to remember to fly the airplane first, everything else is second. That translates to do the most important thing first and then you can do the other things.
We understand you are now working on developing a larger, more powerful plane that can be flown without the use of arms. Could you share with our readers how that is going, and when we can expect you to be airborne in that?
We are calling my nonprofit’s newest goal, Project 2025. It will take us approximately four years to accomplish and a serious commitment of time. It is estimated that building the kit could take 2000 hours and any additional hours for the custom controls of the first ever airplane that can be flown with foot controls.
What would your advice be to other aspiring pilots with disabilities?
My advice to other aspiring pilots with disabilities is to never give up even if there are road blocks. In the end, the harder you have to work for a goal, the more appreciation you have for it!
Important advice for everyone no doubt! We hope you enjoyed learning about Jessica’s incredible and groundbreaking journey to becoming the world’s first armless pilot as much as we did. Stay tuned for the next Pioneering Pilots interview.