A blind woman from New Mexico landed safely in College Park Airport in Maryland this week after flying a Cessna half way across the country.
Kaiya Armstrong can only see a few inches in front of her face, but that didn’t slow her down on a flight that took her from New Mexico across the U.S. to D.C. with a then a final stopover in Kentucky. Her co-pilot and flight instructor gave her audio cues along her route, but she was fully at the controls. Due to inclement weather, she arrived a day early in D.C. to commemorate World Sight Day, as well as lend some encouragement to blind teens.
The 22-year-old Armstrong lost her sight when she was just 14 years old. She struggled in the early years of her blindness until she became involved with Foundation for Blind Children. The foundation helped her learn to navigate her life without sight. When it offered her the chance to learn how to fly, she jumped on it, even though she’d never even been on an airplane before, according to the Washington Post:
In March, the organization offered her the chance to learn to fly. She was chosen from a competitive group of students and jumped at the opportunity, even though she had never taken a flight and had traveled only to neighboring California and Nevada. She had previously believed there were several things she’d never be able to do, chief among them: drive and fly.
The foundation enrolled her in months-long intensive flight instruction. She trained with Leopard Aviation, which paired her with instructor Tyler Sinclair, who helped her learn all the intricacies of the cockpit and co-piloted her epic journey.
The skies above are “peaceful,” Armstrong said. Her limited sight is best described as “tunnel vision,” she explained.
That vision did provide Armstrong with some striking vistas of the landscape below her, as she witnessed a palette of green forests and blue lakes vastly different from the beige, sandy ground she typically observed in Arizona.
Even the beginning of her trip produced a view that mimicked chocolate chip cookies, a sea of brown dotted with dark rooftops and rocks below, she recalled.
“It’s just so interesting what you can see, when you can’t see,” she said.
Her message to the blind kids like herself who struggle to find a way in the world: Don’t accept limits place on you by other people, or yourself.