- Kaiya Armstrong, who is visually impaired, flew across the US from Arizona to DC.
- She underwent eight months of extensive training from multiple instructors.
- Armstrong said flying was something she had to do to prove people like her have no limitations.
Being blind didn’t stop Kaiya Armstrong from her dream of piloting a plane.
“I didn’t realize I was putting limits on what I could do and having the opportunity and being able to prove that the only limits that we have are the ones that we’ve given ourselves,” Armstrong, who lives in Arizona, told Insider. “If I just stop limiting myself, I can do whatever I want.”
Armstrong said she started losing her vision at the age of 14 and initially thought it was allergies causing her deteriorating vision, but was later diagnosed with autoimmune disease by the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Despite multiple procedures and cataract surgeries that doctors said would improve her vision, she can only see blurry distortions and colors.
“It’s very extreme tunnel vision, but then I can’t see details far out, and even when it’s up close in front of my face, I have a hard time seeing details,” Armstrong said.
Despite this, Armstrong was elated when she was accepted to “Flight for Sight,” a program organized by the Foundation for Blind Children, which serves those who are blind and visually impaired by providing education, tools, and services that enable them to live a more independent life.
According to their website, Flight for Sight selects a candidate who undergoes extensive training to fly a plane without vision from Phoenix, Arizona, to Washington, DC, to celebrate World Sight Day on October 13. A and
Armstrong said she became enthusiastic about the 5-day trip.
“I got this opportunity, and I came home and told my mom, ‘I have to do this because it’s proving not just to us here at home,’” Armstrong said.
For the next eight months, Armstrong met with her ground training and inflight instructors to prepare her for a journey she’ll never forget.
According to the Foundation’s teacher Fred Hall, 39, he had to modify Armstrong’s ground lesson materials to make her learning how to fly an airplane more accessible for her.
“There was a lot that had to be adapted,” Hall told Insider. “So everything from making things large print, there were Braille materials provided, and then all the way down to getting a miniature version of Cessna 172, which is the plane that she flew. “
Armstrong said she had never been on a plane before and was initially nervous about flying. However, her instructors relieved her of any worries she had.
“He talked about what he was doing and what was going on, and so that really took care of any sort of nerves I had, and I fell in love that first day, and then, going forward, anytime I was flying, I was never really scared, I was always excited to hop in,” Armstrong said.
Once her training was completed, she was ready to take off on longer flights with her co-pilot Tyler Sinclair, 38, also from Arizona.
“She was great, yeah, she did just fine, she was able to keep the plane on course,” Sinclair told Insider. “It was good seeing someone beat their challenges and learn to fly.”
Armstrong and Sinclair made three stops in Colorado, Missouri, and Kentucky, before they reached DC,
However, due to weather conditions, Kaiya’s journey included more stops than anticipated. But, she said the experience of flying these longer trips was amazing; every time she landed, she would be excited to take off again.
“I loved landing, It was a lot of fun, but that also meant that I was going to get to take off again right after because, honestly, I love taking off,” Armstrong said. “It really is, like my dad said, ‘Just a little roller coaster, you’re shooting up in the air,’ and I love it.
Armstrong landed in DC a day earlier due to weather conditions, according to Sinclair,
Armstrong said she was treated by her family congratulating her on her trip.
“It was just so exciting, landing in Washington and having them there, and it was amazing,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said this experience is something she will carry with her for the rest of her life. The experience, for her, proved that people with disabilities can do seemingly impossible feats.
“For anybody dealing with people that are telling them that they can’t do something, just remember that you don’t have limits and maybe you can’t do it exactly the way that they do it, because for us, life can be harder,” Armstrong said. “Sometimes we have to work two times as hard as a normal sighted person, but we have accessibility, we have assistive technology.”