Almost all pilots remember the thrill of their first solo. However,
we rarely remember what it was like to master each little movement that led to straight and level flight, or making a coordinated turn so that we could fly perfect patterns. At some point
in time the instructions given to us by our instructor became
natural movements. Our hands and feet moved in concert with
each other, bringing about the desired results. It is like that in many of our activities, for example learning to ride a bike, or learning to swim.
Now just imagine what it would be like to learn to fly if you were born without arms. Jessica Cox, a young lady from
Tucson, Arizona, has accomplished that. by Marcia K. Gitelman
She does not wear prosthetic arms.
You start to appreciate Jessica’s accomplishments, when you sit at lunch with
her, and after about 1. 5 seconds you don’t even think about the fact that she is
holding a fork in her right foot. Driving with her in a car is a similar non-event.
Jessica is the middle child in a family of three children. For reasons that
remain unknown, she was born with no upper limbs. Her parents, Inez and
William Cox, were encouraging throughout her life…always supporting her, and
enabling her to do whatever she could, and somehow she always could…from
styling her hair, to inserting contact lenses, to achieving black belt status in Tae
Kwon-Do as a teenager. Her flying odyssey is a story of persistence. It is also one
where she always had the good fortune to find people willing to assist her along
This young University of Arizona graduate is now earning a living as a motivational speaker. She had a speaking engagement at a Tucson, Arizona, Rotary Club luncheon in 2005. After her presentation she was approached by Robin
Stoddard, the founder of Wright Flight. Wright Flight is an organization that
“uses the motivational power of aviation as a method for students to set and
achieve higher goals in their educational and personal development.” Stoddard
asked Jessica if she would like to learn to fly. Flying had been Jessica’s “one and
only fear” since childhood. After some initial hesitancy and an introductory
flight, though, she embraced the idea.
One of the biggest decisions became selecting an appropriate aircraft. An Ercoupe was suggested. The Ercoupe has the aileron and rudder controls and the
nose wheel steering combined into the yoke. You steer it on the ground as you
would a car. It has a single floor-mounted brake pedal. As it happened, just as
Jessica and her advisors were coming to the conclusion that the best aircraft
would be an Ercoupe, a picture of one appeared on the cover of the March 2006
AOPA Pilot magazine. Jessica contacted the editor of the magazine for information about the owner. The aircraft pictured belonged to Glen Davis, a flight
instructor from New York and Florida. It turned out that he also had prior experience training pilots with disabilities and was willing to teach Jessica to fly.
Wright Flight provided the initial funding. Jessica came to Florida in July 2006,
and again in November 2006. While in Florida she stayed in Glen’s home with
his family. Glen’s brother Geoff, a flight instructor as well, also contributed to
her aviation education.
Her training went quite smoothly, in spite of windy weather conditions. She
progressed nicely with taxiing, landings, all of the basic maneuvers and even
First and Flying High