Armless pilot draws record crowd at Sun Lakes Aero Club


Jessica Cox, the first armless woman to receive a pilot’s license, was guest speaker at the Sun Lakes Aero Club gathering January 18.  Here she is shown with Bob Walch, SLAC  vice-president.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 110 turned out at the Sun Lakes Aero Club (SLAC) gathering January 18 to hear Jessica Cox relate her experiences as the first armless person to receive a pilots license.

          Born without arms, Cox described how she does most things with her feet that most people do with their hands. That includes putting in her contact lenses, becoming the first \woman to fly an .airplane with her feet, earning a Taekwondo State Championship title, and traveling the world as a motivational speaker and advocate for people with disabilities.

          Cox sits cross-legged in the cockpit, controlling the throttle with her left foot and the control yoke with her right foot.  “It was totally awkward at first, but withpractice, I got the hang of it,” she said.

          Cox showed a video chronicling her experience the day she went out to the San Manuel airport for her first solo flight.  She was so excited that she invited all her friends and family to come and watch. But she was so giddy that her instructor told her there was no way he would let her solo that day.  He said she was paying more attention to the people around her than to what she was there to do that day.

          “I was crushed, but understood his reasoning.  We went out to the airport the next day.  I did five good landings, and my instructor approved me to solo.  After a normal take-off, my radio communication with my instructor failed, and I realized I was really on my own. But I completed the flight with no more problems, and made a great landing to boot.

          “My solo flight was an incredibly overpowering experience. It made me realize for the first time that I was the one who alters the course of what happens to me in life.  My solo flight  truly disarmed my limits. That catch phrase became the title of her book, “Disarm Your Limits.”  More than 25 attendees purchased the book after her presentation, and she autographed the book for many of them, writing with her toes.

          Cox has given inspirational speeches in more than 20 countries, including several to Fortune 500 corporations.  Her husband of several  years, Patrick Chamberlain,  handles the promotions and accompanies her on all her travels.

          SLAC has two more presentations scheduled for this spring.  Doug Andruik, leader of the Phoenix Area Drone Operators organization, will speak about the controversial unmanned aerial vehicles March 21. On April 18,  Sun Lakes resident Tom Waldron will related his experiences as a helicopter pilot flying rescue missions in VietNam.

SLAC gatherings are held in the Mirror Room at the Sun Lakes Country Club.  Open to the public, the sessions begin with coffee and camaraderie at 6:30 p.m., followed  by the presentations at 7 p.m.    Additional information is available from president Cannon Hill at 509-539-7857 or program director Gary Vacin at 298-7017.