Photo © Brenda
Hagood Lea / Tailwind Photography
Jessica Cox demonstrates that learning to buckle herself into the
cockpit’s seatbelt is similar to learning to tie your shoes. She
was the keynote speaker Monday night at Women Soar You Soar.
July 29, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- Born without arms, Jessica Cox said she doesn’t have “can’t” in
“Instead I say I haven’t figured out yet
how to do that.”
With that degree of determination Cox became
the first person without arms to earn her pilot’s certificate back in
But it wasn’t easy.
Cox, faced with the first challenge of flight
training, was figuring out how to buckle herself into the four-point
seatbelt using her feet.
“I sat and thought about similar challenges
I had faced in the past and realized it was like learning how to tie shoe
Cox said she eventually tried loosely buckling
the seatbelt, then climbing on top of the seat and sliding in.
Next, she tightened the belt.
That first time, Cox said, she needed about 45
minutes to buckle herself into the airplane. Each subsequent time,
however, it went a little faster.
Now, she can get buckled in about 5 minutes.
“Every challenge needs to be broken up and
then I can figure out how to solve it,” she said. “With practice, it
becomes easier and easier.”
There aren’t many things Cox, a motivational
speaker, hasn’t figured out. Using her feet, she combs her hair, eats,
plays piano, types 30 words per minute, text messages, and much more.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” said Cox,
who was a keynote speaker at Women Soar You Soar Monday night. “If
I woke up with arms tomorrow, I wouldn’t know what to do with them.”
Still, at times, Cox said she almost gave up
her dream of flying.
She tried different planes and different
instructors—some of whom didn’t always believe in her.
One said it wasn’t safe for her to solo.
“I knew only I could make it happen.
“Sometimes in life, things are handed— or
in my case footed—to you,” she said. “But other times you have to
pull yourself up and make it happen.”
With renewed dedication and focus, Cox said
she went on to solo and earn her sport pilot certificate.
She flew into AirVenture earlier this week,
part of a fleet of eight Ercoupes.
“It was pretty awesome flying here,” she
And while she has earned her sport pilot
ticket, she said, she plans to continue earning more ratings, including
“I would really like to teach,” she said.
Cox says despite being born without arms, she has never seen herself as
being incomplete. While high school was the most difficult, she said she
learned to continually remind herself to celebrate her uniqueness.
“I had to accept Jessica for who Jessica
was,” she said.
“The only limitations are the ones you
create,” she explained. “If you’re told you can’t do something,
you can. You just need to believe it.”
So what’s the next thing she believes she
Now that she’s adept at the
three-dimensional world of the sky, she wants to move into the underwater
“As soon as I leave Oshkosh, I’m going to
try and become SCUBA certified,” she said.
For more information on Cox, go to her
To view her speaking schedule at AirVenture, go to www.airventure.org/schedule
or check the EAA AirVenture Today newspaper.