The term “flying blind” typically refers to instrument flying—when the pilot relies on the instruments instead of the view of the outside world to guide the plane safely. One would never associate that phrase with a pilot who is literally blind. But one woman, who lost her sight to an autoimmune disease eight years ago, is now in the midst of a 2,000-mile cross-country journey, truly flying blind.
Kaiya Armstrong, a 21-year-old who has spent many months of preparation, along with pilot Tyler Sinclair, who provides verbal queues as needed to assist Kaiya, has traversed the country from Mesa, Arizona, to Washington, D.C., in a single-engine Cessna 172 Skyhawk, making an impossible-sounding dream a reality.
Why would someone who is blind take on such a monumental challenge? As Kaiya told Fox10 News in Phoenix, “I think the biggest message I want everyone—both sighted and blind—to take away from this is that we don’t have limits. The only limits that we have are the ones that we’ve given ourselves, and I want everybody stop limiting themselves.”
Kaiya further described in passionate detail what motivated her to plan and execute this journey “I’ve had to go through extensive ground school and in-flight training just to figure out all the ins and outs and all the details. They were able to get me a poster of the inside and an exact replica, and I was able to Braille it at home, so I put it up on the wall or on the table and I just sat in front of it and practiced for hours.”
Kaiya’s passion for flight resulted in successfully undertaking what was once thought to be a near-impossible goal: flying an airplane without sight. Make no mistake about it, even with verbal queues from her co-pilot passenger Tyler, flying blind truly takes on a different meaning with Kaiya’s cross-country odyssey completed.
The success of this endeavor was preceded by her life-changing diagnosis in 2014. She stated that the day in 2014 started, “…just like any other.” While on a bike ride, she had to cut it short when her vision started blurring. She didn’t realize the magnitude of her condition until the next day, finding out from a doctor’s diagnosis that Kaiya had an autoimmune disease that ultimately took away her eyesight.
However, as evidenced by the success of her cross-country flight, it is apparent that Kaiya has overcome her lack of sight with an insightful approach to life and the fulfillment of dreams that few others in similar circumstances have obtained.