A brave woman from Arizona has become the first licensed pilot in the US without arms after she learned to fly a plane with her feet. Jessica Cox, 36, from Phoenix, was born with a rare condition that caused her to not develop her upper limbs in the womb. She learned to use her feet to do everyday tasks including playing the piano, driving a car, become a certified scuba diver, and also earn a third-degree black belt in taekwondo. So here is an inspiring story of a strong woman who is flying with no hands.
Flying with No Hands
With one foot manning the controls and the other skillfully controlling the steering column, Cox, 25, rose to obtain a Sport Pilot certificate. Her certificate qualifies her to fly a light-sport aircraft to altitudes of 10,000 feet.
Cox’s most prominent achievement is becoming certified to fly a single-engine plane, and she says she aspires to inspire others with disabilities by proving they too can achieve anything.
Cox revealed that doctors were never been able to explain why she didn’t develop arms in her mother’s womb. No prior scans had shown something was wrong.
‘My mom had a normal pregnancy,’ Cox said. ‘And then on the day of my birth, it was an absolute shock to both of my parents…when the doctor brought me over saying: “Your baby doesn’t have any arms.”‘
Although it has never been approved, Cox was likely born with Amelia, a rare condition in which one or more limbs don’t grow.
The cause is unexplained but the limb development process is usually restricted or interrupted very early, between 24 and 36 days after fertilization.
From a very young age, Cox was amazingly active from taking tap dancing classes to participating in Girl Scouts, though she frequently got stares and comments.
‘I wanted so much to be normal, and I was told too often that I couldn’t do something or that I was handicapped,’ Cox said. ‘I absolutely resented the word “handicap”.’
Despite learning how to use prosthetic arms, Cox said she didn’t relish using them and preferred to use her feet.
Cox told that she used to be strangely scared of airplanes until the pilot of a small plane called her up to the cockpit.
‘The pilot brought me to the front of the plane. The plane has dual controls,’ she said.
‘He took his hands off of the control and let me do the flying. Even if something is scary to you, it’s important that we face it.’
She concluded she wanted to train to become a pilot after she graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Arizona in 2005.
She also found a plane that would be suitable for her to work with her feet: a light aircraft with a single-engine known as an Ercoupe. Cox became accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration in October 2008 to fly the plane, which she does with one foot on the yoke and the other on the throttle.
She wishes she can become an inspiration for young kids and inspire them to face their fears.