For Jessica Cox, it’s perfectly natural to put her right foot on the stick and her left foot on the throttle after she’s been cleared and allowed to take off. “What other pilots arrange with their hands, I replace by using my feet,” Jessica sums up briefly.
The American Arizona woman was born without arms. Now more than thirty years later, it is still unclear why her arms didn’t grow in the womb. “My mother’s pregnancy was quite normal. On the day I was born, the absolute shock came for both my parents. Especially for my mother, she was completely dismayed when the doctor brought me to her and told me that I had no arms”.
According to Jessica, however, she never felt restricted during her childhood, thanks to her family who had the spirit and strength to encourage her to do and try anything. “I also wanted to be independent,” she adds, honestly.
Once, she was terrified of flying. “Every time we took a normal, commercial flight, I prayed that God would protect me.” A later flight, in a small plane, changed everything. “The pilot took me to the cockpit. There were two control panels in it. He let go of the controls and let me fly. Even if things are scary at first, it’s good that we face the challenge.”
After graduating from the University of Arizona, Jessica started her pilot training in 2005. It wasn’t easy, especially because she needed a special instructor. “It took a lot of instructors to figure out how this could work,” the pilot says. “In the end, it took three years of trial and error to see what was possible and what wasn’t.”
Even more important was finding a suitable aircraft. There had to be something that suited her handicap. She continued, “I took a picture of an airplane somewhere and made it the monitor background on my computer. In the end, that was the model in which I got my license with. Seeing that picture at times when I was in doubt and thinking that I could fly in it myself, dragged me through it”.
Jessica Cox passed her exams in 2008 and got her degree from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly an Ercoupe, a light sports airplane. “There were so many questions, so many worries and objections. Many had their doubts as to whether it would really be possible. But I’ve proved it can be done!”
“Sometimes I think about what it would be like if I could do my life again with arms, but it would be so different. Life as I live it now is so beautiful, because I can make such a large impression on other people. I have had my role models and leaders over the years. That’s why it’s my job now to take the same role for the next generation.”