Jessica Cox, Armless Pilot, Briefs Aero Club Gathering

Born without arms, Jessica Cox demonstrates how she puts on a headset using only her feet. She spoke at the Sun Lakes Aero Club gathering on Jan. 17. Cox was the first person to qualify for a pilot’s license using only her feet. Photo by Gary Vacin

Gary Vacin

“Our plan is to build the impossible airplane.” That’s how Jessica Cox described her plans to partner with Van’s Aircraft Company to build an airplane that can be controlled by only the feet. She spoke to an enthusiastic crowd during the Sun Lakes Aero Club’s Jan. 17 gathering at the Sun Lakes Country Club. Born without arms, Cox earned a Guinness World Record in 2008 when she became the first person to qualify for a pilot’s certificate using only her feet.

She said the position in which she has to fly an Ercoupe (the aircraft she earned her license in) with her right foot on the yoke and her left foot on the throttle is painfully uncomfortable for her. “It’s pretty tough, and it’s really draining to be in that position for so long,” she said. “I get a charley horse and my foot falls asleep, and often I get cramps in my legs.” As a result, her flights are limited to an hour flight time

Cox told her audience about a recent trip to Oshkosh from her home in Tucson. “We made numerous stops, and it took us two weeks to the day to complete the trip,” she said. Working with Vans Aircraft company, she plans to design a custom, retrofitted RV-10 to be flown with only the feet. She plans to do much of the building herself, and she showed a video of how she is learning to do sheet metal work.

“With this future design, it will allow me to be in a resting position with my legs on the floor of the airplane, and it will allow me to be able to do longer distances,” she said. The four-seat airplane will allow Cox to take passengers. She plans to get a third-class medical certificate to allow her to upgrade from the Sport Pilot Certificate to a Private Pilot License. She is realistic about the time it might take to get the RV-10 ready for Cox to fly, and she has named it Project 2025. When the project is completed, the Aero Club hopes to invite Cox to come back to Sun Lakes to update the club on the project.

The Sun Lakes Aero Club is an official Sun Lakes organization made up of private and commercial pilots, and anyone who is interested in aviation. The club holds gatherings the third Monday of each month, November through April. The guest speaker for the March 21 meeting will be airshow and test pilot Bob Bishop, who built and flew a version of the world’s smallest jet aircraft, the BD5-J. More information on the club is available from Cannon Hill at 509-539-7857 or Gary Vacin at 480-298-7017.