Against the odds

World’s only armless pilot: “My whole life is about doing things different”

(Facebook/Jessica Cox)

Jessica Cox of Tucson, Arizona, is an inspirational force to be reckoned with. Born without arms as the result of a rare defect, 32-year-old has overcome stigma and physical limitations to become a black belt in martial arts who loves to surf, fly planes and drives a car with her feet. She is currently the only person in the world without arms to hold a pilot’s license, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. “I spent the majority of my childhood every day being judged and told what I could do, or more importantly, what I couldn’t do,” she told a crowd of Camden Youth Aviation Program participants at Rutgers University this month. “My whole life is about doing things different.”

Cox wore prosthetic arms until the eighth grade, before becoming a black belt at 14. In a profile on, she recalled the look on her flabbergasted driving instructor’s face when he saw that an armless person was learning to drive (Cox told him, “You might want to buckle up.”)
She earned her pilot’s license in 2008 after three years of training, an achievement that warranted a congratulatory meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. “It’s easy to give up, but it’s so important to persist,” she said.

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