Sport pilot and motivational speaker Jessica Cox was born without arms, but that hasn’t stopped her from tackling everyday hurdles to live a normal life and earn her pilot certificate six years ago. She encouraged men and women, both prospective and veteran pilots, to pursue their dreams and believe in themselves.
“When was the last time you said, ‘I can’t’?" Cox asked more than 360 attendees at the July 22 Women in Aviation International Connect Breakfast. “I have found that we use those words too often,” she said, urging listeners to “stop yourself from saying, ‘I can’t.’”
Instead of setting oneself up for failure by saying those two little words, Cox said to “think outside the shoe.” As a kindergartener, Cox watched her teacher show other students how to tie their shoes and knew she needed to figure out a different way. She needed to tie her shoes loosely using her toes before she could stick her feet in them. She applied that same philosophy to fastening her seatbelt in the Ercoupe on her first flight lesson.
Cox recalled spending 45 minutes figuring out how to buckle the Ercoupe’s four-point harness, loosen it, slide her body into the harness, and then tighten the straps. But that was a small hurdle to her dream of learning to fly that started when she was a child swinging at a playground. “Keep that vision in mind—of wanting to fly,” Cox encouraged prospective pilots, including 56 high school girls attending AirVenture as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association's Women Soar program.
Cox flew in three different airplanes in three different states, and accumulated about 80 hours to earn her sport pilot certificate.
“I am pilot in command of my life, no matter what happens. You are your pilot in command,” Cox said, as attendees responded with a standing ovation.
Cox, who just released the book Disarm your limits, is one of many motivational speakers being highlighted during WomenVenture July 22. Women in Aviation also hosted a luncheon and Theater in the Woods session, along with a group photo in front of the Airbus A350 on Boeing Plaza.
Women in Aviation International will offer 102 scholarships worth $488,000 in March 2016 during its annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. Peggy Chabrian said July 22. That will boost the cumulative value of scholarships the organization has given since it started awarding them in the mid-1990s to $10 million, she said.
In addition to providing scholarships to help men and women progress in their aviation careers, the group is launching a new initiative to inspire girls to enter aviation.
On Sept. 26, Women in Aviation chapters around the world will host Girls in Aviation Day, geared toward introducing girls to aviation. The association and FAA entered into a memorandum of understanding July 22 that establishes a formal partnership between the organizations and supports the aviation day. While the group has spread the word about the aviation day to its chapters worldwide, Molly Martin, outreach director for Women in Aviation, said they will soon initiate a letter-writing campaign to encourage states to name Sept. 26 “Girls in Aviation Day.”