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TOPIC: Becoming the world's first armless airplane pilot

Becoming the world's first armless airplane pilot 3 years 6 months ago #210

  • Jessica Cox
  • Jessica Cox's Avatar
Jessica Cox is the subject of the award-winning documentary film Right Footed, that chronicles her journey from a childhood full of challenge, to earning her pilot's wings and becoming a mentor for children with disability, and a disability rights activist.
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You can read more about the film and learn how to bring it to your community at the website www.RightFootedMovie.com

This is Jessica's story —

My name is Jessica Cox and I was born without arms, but that never prevented me from pursuing my dreams. When I was a child, the teachers at my school in Sierra Vista, Arizona used to prevent me from climbing up the slide. The only thing that they would let me do, was sit on the swing. I used to dream that I was Super Girl, and that I could fly. I was the only one with a super power, and I would take my friends up high over my playground.

My parents decided to treat me like I was no different than my brother or my sister, and they enrolled me in dance class, put me in a swimming pool, and even Taekwondo lessons. At first when I was in dance class I was terrified, and I asked to be put in the "back row" when we did a public performance. But there was no such thing as a back row! So I just went out there and did it, and guess what? When the first round of applause hit, I was hooked. I ended up dancing for many years. Thanks to my parents, and my friends, and my own willpower, I succeeded in achieving real independence. I even got a black belt in Taekwondo.

But I still didn't feel right about my self-image. But then, when I was a teenager,I happened to see a woman named Barbara Guerra on television who was just like me — only she had lost her arms in a childhood accident. She lived not so far away, and I got to meet with her. She was married and had just had a baby, and when I saw her taking care of her baby and how she led a really normal life, it really changed me forever.

By the time I graduated from college at the University of Arizona, I had learned to drive a car with my feet, and I could type with my toes and pretty much do everything for myself. More importantly, I'd begun to share my story of how I achieved my independence and became comfortable with myself. It was like a weight that was lifted off of me, to be proud about who I was and share my story. One day when I was speaking at a Rotary Club, a man came up to me and offered to take me flying in his small plane. I was actually terrified to do it, but I decided to overcome my fear and go flying with him. Being up in a small plane, I realized that this was the ultimate form of independence, and I decided right then and there that I wanted to become a pilot.

I thought it would be difficult to convince people that I could fly, but I got a lot of encouragement. I was even given a scholarship from a group called Wright Flight that promotes aviation for people with disabilities. Eventually with the help of my instructor Parrish Traweek, I was able to solo and I earned my pilot's license.
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I will never forget that flight for many reasons but one thing in particular sticks in my mind: when I looked down on my solo flight, I saw a playground, and I realized I was up there flying like Super Girl.

Here's the trailer for the documentary Right Footed:

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Our Mission

-Share our stories
---Obstacles we faced
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---What we learned
---What we need
---What we offer
-To help each other  
    
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    Our story

Catherine Gogel, Publisher

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