Jessica Cox, the first person without arms to earn a pilot’s certificate, is joining Handicap International on a journey to Ethiopia to inspire children with disabilities to reach beyond their dreams despite their physical challenges. Handicap International targeted Ethiopia because low-income countries in particular tend to deny handicapped people opportunities offered to the general public.
“In Ethiopia, only one percent of children with disabilities are educated,” says Matteo Capriotti, Handicap International’s country director for Ethiopia. “Most parents of children with disabilities do not think they can benefit from going to school.”
And Cox is sure to inspire. “There are two words I’ve eliminated from my vocabulary,” Cox says. “I can’t.” Not only is she the first person without arms to become a pilot, she also achieved a black belt in Taekwondo at the age of 14 and is an avid rock climber and snowboarder. She has also achieved her dream of becoming a motivational speaker, mentor and advocate for people with disabilities.
She achieved her longtime goal of becoming a pilot in 2008, flying an Ercoupe 415C, an airplane that does not have rudder pedals, which allowed Cox to learn to fly by controlling the airplane using only her feet. And because the Ercoupe qualifies under the LSA rules, Cox could use her driver’s license rather than having to go through the process of getting an Authorization for Special Issuance of a Medical Certificate or a Statement of Demonstrated Ability.