Jessica Cox (born 1983 in Arizona) is the world’s first licensed armless pilot, as well as the first armless black-belt in the American Taekwondo Association. She was born without arms due to a rare birth defect.
Jessica Cox flew in a single engine airplane for the first time via Wright Flight in 2005. Jessica earned her pilot’s certificate on October 10, 2008, after three years of training, and is qualified to fly a light-sport aircraft to altitudes of 10,000 feet. She received her flight training through an Able Flight scholarship and soloed under the instruction of Parrish Traweek.
Cox’s Sport Pilot Certificate is for an ERCO 415-C Ercoupe which the Federal Aviation Administration has designated a light sport aircraft. Designed in the 1940s, the Ercoupe was built without rudder pedals. Instead, the rudder is interconnected with the ailerons through the yoke. This unique design allows Cox to control the airplane with one foot controlling the yoke while the other foot controls the throttle.
At the age of 10, Cox began training in taekwondo at a school in her home town of Sierra Vista. At the age of 14, she earned her first black belt. While in college at the University of Arizona Cox restarted her taekwondo training at an American Taekwondo Association club on campus. In an effort to help future students without the use of arms the instructors created an entire training curriculum by modifying the standard material from the ATA. For example, instead of a punch Cox executes a knee strike. Cox has since gone on to earn her second and third degree black belts in the ATA. Cox has also earned the title of 2014 Arizona State Champion in forms. It should be noted that she did not compete in a special abilities ring.
Cox works as a motivational speaker and has shared her message in 20 different countries.
In 2014 Cox competed in the 40 mile segment of El Tour de Tucson.
In 2015 Cox published an autobiographical self-help book, Disarm Your Limits. in order to inspire people to overcome their own challenges through the lessons she has learned in her life.
To achieve so much, Cox says she had to “think outside the shoe.” As a child, she watched as her classmates learned to tie their shoes with their hands. She realized she needed to take her feet out of her shoes and tie the laces with her toes. “My shoes represented so many assumptions and self-limiting beliefs that I could have just given up and let my teachers tie my laces for me,” says Cox. “But I had to learn to think outside the box to become independent. Now, I’m on a mission to empower corporate organizations and their teams and show them how easily they can achieve the impossible.”
Cox will be visiting Louisville to deliver a speech for GE Appliances (GEA) at the company’s All-In Rally supporting its diversity, engagement and inclusion efforts. In the past she has spoken for illustrious American companies such as Boeing, State Farm, and Johnson & Johnson, to name a few.
“Our team is really looking forward to hosting Jessica Cox,” said AJ Hubbard, Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion for GE Appliances. “She is incredibly talented and inspirational. Her message of ‘Diversity of thought’ strongly connects to our values and overall business purpose.”
How does she fly a plane when Cox does not have arms? Cox spent three years looking for the right combination of instructor, airplane, and training. “No one had done this before, so I had to think outside the box to make this happen,” remembers Cox. Now certified as a light sport pilot, she flies an Ercoupe 415-C that was built in the 1940s. When asked why she flies a vintage airplane, Cox says, “I never let my physical limitation stop me. Years of research went into this until I found out that the way the Ercoupe controls were designed allowed me to fly it.”
Cox says her next challenge is to learn to slackline; a form of tightrope walking. Already after just a few hours of practice, she has made it a distance of thirty feet on a slackline. Now her sights are set on slacklining over a canyon or a river. She added, “It’s just a matter of time. I will do it!”
Aside from being a pilot, Cox is a martial artist, a diver, surfer, equestrian, gymnast and tap dancer. In 2013 she was recognized as one of the “10 Best Pilots” of Plane and Pilot Magazine and was awarded at the Inspiration Awards for Women in 2013.
Cox arrived in Manila on February 24. She was last here in February 2013 to visit her mother’s home town of Bobon, close to Guiuan, in Eastern Samar, which was devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013. “I don’t know if I’m ready to see the place,” she told Rappler. She said she had many good memories there, and is looking forward to reaching out to assist typhoon victims with PWDs. She also said an 80-year-old relative died in the storm surge.
Jessica Cox and her husband Patrick Chamberlain hosted a fundraising event at the Decagon in Frontera Verde, Pasig City, on February 25, with the Ortigas Foundation, for the benefit of PWD victims of the typhoon as well as to help fund her documentary Rightfooted.
“Mobility is especially an issue for persons with disabilities,” Cox told Rappler.
Persons with disabilities are especially vulnerable in times of disaster, said Molly Feltner of Handicap International (HI), an international NGO founded in France in 1982 to help in refugee camps in Cambodia and Thailand.