06 January 2010

Armless Fil-Am Certified Pilot in Town

Jessica Cox
Filipino-American Jessica Cox has done much more than a normal woman her age could: she dances, is adept at using computers, has a double black belt in taekwondo, and she navigates the skies using only her feet.

The 26 year-old was born without arms, but the first thing she learned at a tender age, said her parents—her mother Inez from Samar and American father William—was not to accept the word 'can't.'

That they couldn't find a good explanation why she was born without arms has not kept the couple from ensuring Jessica would never feel deprived or different. It helped, of course, that she had an indomitable spirit and a happy heart, even at a young age.

Cox has inspired people worldwide with her story of strength, courage and determination to rise above her disability.

Cox is in town with her parents, Filipina mother Inez and father William, and brother Jayson for her mother’s college reunion.

"It’s great to be here again. I had been to the Philippines when I was 8 years old, when I was 14, one time when I was in college and in 2004," said Cox in an interview with reporters when she arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport
(NAIA) on 4 January 2010.

"I have always had that desire to go back to the Philippines," Cox said.

Jessica believes that with creativity, persistence and fearlessness, nothing is impossible.

She is a psychology graduate from the University of Arizona, she can write well, using a computer, and brushes her hair and uses her phone with the use of her feet.

Jessica’s father is a retired band teacher while her mother is a nurse from Samar. She remembers that when Jessica was still a little girl she put toys in her feet to play with. She started wearing prostheses when she was 2 but then stopped using them after the seventh grade.

Cox enrolled in gymnastics classes at age 6 and could swim in the backyard pool. She could tap out rhythms in dance class.

Today she cooks, washes dishes, curls her own hair and writes and types with her feet as she also loves to swim, skate and drive her car.

Jessica became the first armless woman pilot as she managed to fly the Ercoupe, a single-engine plane to be made and certified with rudder pedals, which is operated by both feet.

"It wasn't easy, I was a little nervous at first, but then I remembered my favorite words of wisdom, 'Never let fear get in the way of your opportunity'."

It took her three years instead of the usual six months to complete her lightweight aircraft license, had three flying instructors and accumulated 89 hours of practice flying.

With one foot manning the controls and the other delicately guiding the steering column, she soared to achieve a Sport Pilot Certificate which qualifies her to fly a light sport aircraft to altitude of 10,000 feet.

"The advice I would give to people with disabilities and anyone is to not allow your limitations to stand in the way of achievement. Approach your own challenges with creativity, persistence, and fearlessness. With them, the world of possibilities will open up to you," Cox said.