November 6, 2009
By Jill W. Tallman
With vision and imagination, we can achieve anything we set our sights on, inspirational speaker Jessica Cox said Nov. 6 at a Women in Aviation, International, (WAI) breakfast at AOPA Aviation Summit.
Cox, who was born without arms, earned a sport pilot certificate in October 2008, flying an Ercoupe. She spoke to an audience that included prominent women pilots and industry leaders at the breakfast, during which AOPA finalized its own new provisional chapter of WAI.
Cox said she had wanted to fly since she was a child, and had explored learning in a Cessna Skyhawk but quickly realized she wouldn’t be able to solo it. An Ercoupe on the cover of the March 2006 issue of AOPA Pilot caught her eye, and she contacted AOPA, who put her in touch with the owner. He helped her to get started and eventually to find a sport-eligible Ercoupe to finish her training.
Cox’s first challenge in the Ercoupe was fastening the four-point harness, and she said she met that challenge using the same type of “out of the shoe” thinking that she used to learn to tie her shoes as a child. She demonstrated by using her toes to repeatedly tie and untie the shoelaces on a sneaker. In a similar fashion, she learned to buckle the harness loosely, slide into the seat, and tighten the belt. “Then my CFI got in, and he was impressed,” she said.
Women in aviation need to be disciples, reaching out to other women who have an interest in flying but aren’t sure how to pursue it, AOPA Executive Vice President of Communications Karen Gebhart told the group. “There are a group of people who would love to be involved in aviation,” she said. “They just don’t know it’s accessible.”
AOPA is spreading the message and reaching out to women in aviation through a collaborative effort with WAI, Gebhart said. The association has formed a brand-new provisional WAI chapter, she said, and urged other organizations to do the same.
WAI President Peggy Chabrian reminded the group that WAI’s 2010 conference will be held Feb. 25 through 27 in Orlando, Fla. The focus of this year’s Friday luncheon is general aviation, she said. WAI is awarding $463,000 in scholarships at the event, including a brand-new flight training scholarship sponsored by AOPA. The deadline for scholarship applications is Nov. 20, and more information is available at the Web site.
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