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No arms, no problem

Tucson-based motivational speaker Jessica Cox, 25, knew once she started flying lessons in a Cessna that she never would be able to finish. The Cessna wasn’t designed for someone born without arms.

Cox had a valid and unrestricted driver’s license, however, and that meant she qualified medically to fly in the light sport aircraft category.

Then arrived her copy of AOPA Pilot in March 2006. On the cover was a rudderless Ercoupe, perfect for someone who does with her feet what other people do with arms and hands. She immediately called AOPA, and we put her in contact with the Ercoupe’s owner, Glen Davis, who previously had instructed a student with spina bifida.

With eight hours of Cessna training behind her, Cox switched to the Ercoupe, and 30 hours later she switched again—to an Ercoupe C that fully met light sport aircraft requirements. She passed her light sport checkride in October. She e-mailed this to AOPA Pilot:

“On the playground in elementary school, I remember being limited to the swings because other equipment like the monkey bars was impossible for me to play on. This frustrated me and I remember envisioning myself flying over the playground like Superwoman while everyone watched in disbelief. In my imagination, I was everyone’s hero and took people up one at a time to experience my super power.

“I never realized how this childlike imagination would affect the years to come. In 2005, I was at a speaking engagement when a fighter pilot named Robin Stoddard, who represented a nonprofit organization called Wright Flight, approached me and asked if I would like to fly an airplane. My gut instinct was disinterest because of a fear of flying commercial airplanes. However, I couldn’t pass it up. Wright Flight started me on my first few hours of flight training. I became addicted.

“Seventy-four hours of flight training later, when I flew over the city of San Manuel for the first time solo, I fulfilled the childhood dream of being Superwoman!”

For more information, visit Cox’s Web site.

December 19, 2008

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