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Pilot without arms helps students dream big

By Bonney Bowman 9:44 PM May 1, 2014

For high school students, accomplishing life goals can seem next to impossible.

It’s a feeling Jessica Cox knows well.

“I was born without arms, so my feet from day one have become my hands,” Cox said.

But she didn’t let a disability hold her down.

Cox accomplished the incredible and got her pilot’s license in 2008. She is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first woman without arms to fly a plane. She thought fear might keep her on the ground until she realized it was just a matter of using her feet.

“That was the most empowering experience I have ever had, just to be able to know that I am flying this airplane and I have this saying, it felt like I was, like I basically had my life in my own feet,” Cox said.

As a pilot, she controls the yolk with her right foot and the throttle with her left. When she is on the ground she tours the country as a motivational speaker. She was at Dimond High School Thursday talking to students as part of a week-long trip to Alaska. Her goal is to show students they set their own limitations, and if they really try, they can achieve anything they want.

“It’s definitely not about me,” Cox said. “This is all about them and seeing that ‘ah-ha’ moment when I look across the audience and I open a soda can with my foot and they realize, if she can do that with her foot then there’s so much they can do.”

This is the third year the Alaska Airmen’s Association has invited Cox to tour the state, spreading her message to students of all ages.

“I watch them engage with her and start to understand that there are no limitations. There’s only what you create,” said Alaska Airmen’s Association member Christine Dunning.

It’s a lesson that could lift students off the ground.

“Without airplanes, we don’t get very far in Alaska and there are so many options for our youth. They’re the next generation for all of us,” Dunning said.

Cox says flying was one of her greatest fears and at times it’s hard to believe she overcame it. But it’s amazing what happens when you don’t limit what you can accomplish, she says.

“That’s almost unbelievable for me even, if I’m doing it, so it’s a pretty incredible privilege and blessing,” Cox said.

You can see Cox at the Alaska Airmen’s Association Great Alaska Aviation gathering. Her talk is at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The event is free and open to the public.

Cox will then be travelling to villages around the state to speak with students. Alaska Airlines and the Alaska Airmen’s Association sponsored her trip.

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