After learning Jessica Cox’s story, you’ll likely find you have no excuse…for anything. Cox is the world’s first licensed armless pilot. Yes, armless. She’s the first armless black belt in the history of the American Taekwondo Association. She can play the piano, put her own contact lenses in, scuba dive, and text on her cell phone: all with her feet. She also has a completely unrestricted driver’s license from the state of Arizona, which inspired the invention of what is called the “Lower Extremity Vehicle Navigation Control System,” allowing people to drive cars without using their upper body. In 2014, she completed a lifelong dream by competing in El Tour de Tucson, a bike race in Arizona, using a custom tricycle.
At the age of 14, Cox earned a black belt from the International Taekwondo Federation. In college, she continued to train in Taekwondo, this time with an American Taekwondo Association martial arts club. In turn, the American Taekwondo Association created a brand new training curriculum to accommodate those without the use of their arms. For example, one of those accommodations was the ability to use a knee strike, instead of a punch. As if that weren’t enough, she went on to earn her second and third degree black belts, and was named Arizona’s 2014 State Champion in “forms.” She wasn’t competing in a handicapped class, either. That was against the best of the best, including able-bodied competitors.
Initially, Cox began training as a pilot to overcome her fear of flying. That’s one way to do it… After struggling for more than a year to find the right aircraft, Cox fell in love with a 1946 415C ERCO Ercoupe. One of the reasons the Ercoupe fit her so well was that the rudders were interconnected with the ailerons, leaving her free to handle the other controls with her feet. After earning her certification in 2011, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized her as the first armless person in the history of the world to obtain a pilot’s license.
Cox graduated from the University of Arizona in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in communications. During her time in school, she completed written assignments and exams by holding pens and pencils in between her toes, learning to write with her feet.
In addition to her aforementioned accomplishments, Cox was named one of Plane and Pilot Magazine’s 10 Best Pilots in 2013, she won the Inspiration Award for Women: Most Aspirational, 2012 USA and Inspiration International, 2013 UK, as well as the AOPA LIVE Pilots Choice Award 2010: Most Watched Female Aviator.
Today, Cox is a motivational speaker, traveling the world to inspire those around her to overcome the challenges they face in their own lives. She has appeared on Fox and Friends, CNN, The Ellen Show, Inside Edition, Beyond Belief, ABS-CBN, Power ng Pinoy, GMA, Hooplaha, AOPA Live, and FAA Focus. She is also the subject of a documentary called Right Footed, directed by Emmy Award winner Nick Spark. In 2015, Cox wrote an autobiography titled Disarm Your Limits: The Flight Formula to Lift You to Success and Propel You to the Next Horizon, available for purchase on Amazon.