US armless girl Jessica Cox gets pilot certificate
Jessica Cox, 25, a girl born without arms, stands inside an aircraft in this undated photo. The girl from Tucson, Arizona got the Sport Pilot certificate lately and became the first pilot licensed to fly using only her feet.
TUCSON -- Jessica Cox of Tucson was born without arms, but that has only stopped her from doing one thing: using the word "can't."
Her latest flight into the seemingly impossible is becoming the first pilot licensed to fly using only her feet.
With one foot manning the controls and the other delicately guiding the steering column, Cox, 25, soared to achieve a Sport Pilot certificate. Her certificate qualifies her to fly a light-sport aircraft to altitudes of 10,000 feet.
"She's a good pilot. She's rock solid," said Parrish Traweek, 42, the flying instructor at San Manuel's Ray Blair Airport.
He runs PC Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Services and has trained many pilots, some of whom didn't come close to Cox's abilities.
"When she came up here driving a car," Traweek recalled, "I knew she'd have no problem flying a plane."
Finding a plane that was compatible with her abilities was a task within itself. She found it in the Ercoupe, a plane manufactured in the mid-1940s. Locating one took her to Florida and California, although she finally find one less than 70 miles away in San Manuel.
Flight lessons usually run more than $100 per hour, but Cox was able to get her 40-plus hours of training through an Able Flight Scholarship.
"Once you're with Jessica for about 20 minutes, you don't even notice she doesn't have arms," Traweek said from the one of the airport's hangars.
Cox, unwrapping a piece of chewing gum with her toes nearby, was clad in a yellow T-shirt sporting a stick figure with truncated arms beneath the phrase: "Look Ma, No Hands."
"Jessica's showing people there are no limits," he said.
Most who meet her, especially on her motivational speaking circuit, agree. She's spoken at hundreds of gigs, from Wisconsin to Phoenix, where she shares her upbeat philosophy and incredible story.
Doctors never learned why she was born without arms, but she figured out early on that she didn't want to use prosthetic devices.
"I realized it was more important to celebrate my difference," she said.
She gave up the prosthetic arms for good when she turned 14 and her family moved to Tucson from their hometown of Sierra Vista.
"When we moved to Tucson, I had a fresh slate," she said.
That slate is now covered with achievements from a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Arizona to two black belts in tae kwon do. She's also seeking a publisher for her life story.