Mesa, Arizona. – A blind woman from Arizona achieves a rare but monumental achievement: she pilots an airplane.
Kaiya Armstrong spent months preparing for the journey of a lifetime as a college student at Blind Children’s Foundation at Phoenix.
“I had to do extensive ground training and flight training just to understand all the ins and outs and all the details,” Armstrong said.
On October 7, she took off from Falcon Field Airport in Mesa in a small Cessna plane.
“They were able to get me a poster of the interior and an exact replica,” she said. “I was able to put it in braille at home, so I hung it on the wall or on the table and just sat in front of it and practiced for hours.”
It’s not uncommon to see a young woman piloting an airplane – but it’s quite rare for that pilot to be blind.
The 21-year-old lost her sight at the age of 14.
“It was like any other day,” Armstrong said. “I went out to ride my bike…but had to come back early because my vision got very blurry, and we found out the next day from doctors that I had an autoimmune disease.
“Fast forward to today I lost all my peripherals [vision] and can only see inches from my face,” she said.
This is all part of an event called Flight on sightwhich aims to give blind children a chance to prove they can do anything, according to Marc Ashton, CEO of the Foundation of Blind Children.
“We do a lot of these challenge events to give our kids a chance to prove to the world that they can do anything,” Ashton said. “She’s flying across the country…and it’s going to show the world that anything can be done.”
Tyler Sinclair, pilot at Leopard Aviation, assists in the flight as a guide.
“While Kaiya is flying, I’m just going to help him navigate, just helping him keep the plane level,” Sinclair said. “Actually, she’s really good at it, so yeah, I just give her a few little verbal cues…but she does most of the flying herself.”
Kaiya’s journey has already taken her to Colorado Springs and Kansas City. She is scheduled to visit Louisville, Kentucky on October 10 before heading to Washington, DC on October 13 for World Sight Day.
“I think the most important message I want everyone – sighted and blind – to take away from this is that we have no limits,” Armstrong said. “The only limits we have are the ones we gave ourselves, and I want everyone to stop limiting themselves.”
Follow his journey here.
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