Proving her mettle as an example of women empowerment and courage, Jessica Cox is the first armless pilot in the world. If you think she would stop at that, think again, she is also the first holder of a black armless belt at the American Taekwondo Association.

Born in Arizona without arms, Cox has been battling a rare birth defect and yet has managed to pursue an impressive number of hobbies. A quick learner, Cox, other than being a pilot she plays the piano, practices Taekwondo, and is into riding, surfing, these are but a few of her many hobbies.

“I’m replacing what other pilots would be doing with their hands and substituting that by doing it with my feet,” the fierce pilot told CNN.

Cox flew an aircraft solo first time in 2005. She acquired her pilot’s license in 2008, after three years of rigorous training.

“I wanted so much to be normal, and I was told too often that I couldn’t do something or that I was handicapped. … I absolutely resented the word ‘handicap.’ “

It’s still a mystery why Cox didn’t develop arms in utero. She also said no to prosthetic arms since it was unnatural to her. She revealed, “My mom had a normal pregnancy. And then on the day of my birth, it was an absolute shock to both of my parents, especially my mom, who was devastated when the doctor brought me over saying, ‘your baby doesn’t have any arms.’”

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Cox never let her disability limit her growing up. She credits her family for her courage and strength. “They helped me to really be encouraged to go out there and try it out, to figure things out and want to be independent,” she said.

Flying high

Now an avid flier she was once terrified of airplanes. Cox says, “Every time I went up on commercial flights as a kid, I would just pray to God that I would be taken care of.” But one flight in a small plane changed things. “The pilot brought me to the front of the plane. The plane has dual controls. He took his hands off of the control and let me do the flying. Even if something is scary to you, it’s important that we face it.”

After graduating in 2005, Cox began training to become a pilot. But she was in dire need of finding a dedicated flight instructor. “I had numerous flight instructors and contributors to my training to figure this out,” Cox said. “So, it was a three-year process to figure out through trial and error what would work.”

And more importantly, she needed to find the right plane – one that was compatible with her abilities. “I pulled up this picture of an airplane, and I put it on the backdrop of my computer, and I just remember looking at that airplane. It was the airplane that I eventually become certified in. But pulling up that picture during those moments of doubt, and just envisioning flying an airplane, even though it wasn’t reality at the moment, it made the reality happen,” she told CNN.

In 2008, Cox was finally certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly an Ercoupe, a light sport aircraft. “There were a lot of questions. There were a lot of concerns. There were a lot of doubters on whether this was possible.”

But she proved everyone of her detractors wrong!

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