The Black Belt Armless Pilot Destroying Convention

05/10/2017 15:34 BST | Updated 05/10/2017 15:34 BST
Rofique Hussain / EyeEm via Getty Images

Some months ago I wrote about the inspiration of Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. For many female pilots all over the world, Amelia is the benchmark; she trail blazed a path, and showed women what can be achieved in what continues today to be a male-dominated sector.

But while historical figures always evoke a sense of nostalgia and romanticism, there are no better advocates for the potential of women than those who currently occupy the skies. Recently, Alpha Aviation was visited by one such modern-day inspiration, who has overcome the most formidable hurdles.

Woman or man, aviator or not, Jessica Cox serves as a shining beacon of hope that anybody can fulfil their dreams.

Born without arms due a rare birth defect, Jessica has gone on to qualify as the world's first licenced armless pilot, as well as hold the Guinness World Record as the world's pilot who can fly a plane without arms. Remarkably, she is also the first armless black-belt in the American Taekwondo Association. Furthermore, she surfs, drives, plays piano and can touch type - all with her feet, and all of which has been achieved by her early 30s.

A psychology graduate, Jessica now travels the world with her husband as a motivational speaker, which is what brought her to the Alpha Aviation training academy in the Philippines. There, she spoke about overcoming adversity and fulfilling your potential. It's a universal message that can be applied to any sector, and deeply resonated with Alpha's cadets - many of who have also had to overcome their own hurdles to pursue a career in aviation.

Growing up, we all hear the same clichés: your dreams are only as big as your imagination, or - perhaps more appropriately for pilots - aim for the moon and, if you miss, you will hit the stars. It is only too easy to cast doubt over these sentiments and take them with a pinch of salt. After all, just because people tell you that you can do anything, that doesn't necessarily make it true.

In Jessica's case, wrong. Jessica is the living embodiment of the human ability to self-motivate and achieve against the odds. Her unique story demonstrates the value and power of determination and a relentlessly positive attitude.

So, my question to those women who are hesitating over a career as a pilot - or indeed anyone who believes they face insurmountable hurdles in any aspect of life - is: what is your excuse? What are you waiting for?

We speak so often about the lack of female pilots, and how we represent just 3% of the industry in the cockpit. Yet Jessica Cox has overcome hurdles not only as a woman, but as a human being. Her achievements scream to women that they too can succeed.

Your gender, your background, even your physique - none of these need hold you back.

If you want something then go for it, and don't leave your dreams grounded on the tarmac.