MESA, Ariz. - A blind Arizona woman is making a rare but monumental achievement: She's piloting a plane.
Kaiya Armstrong spent months preparing for the journey of a lifetime as a student at the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix.
"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," Armstrong said.
On Oct. 7, she took off from Mesa's Falcon Field Airport in a small Cessna aircraft.
"They were able to get me a poster of the inside and exact replica," she said. "I was able to Braille it at home, so I put it up on the wall or on the table and I just sit in front of it and practice for hours."
It’s not unusual to see a young woman pilot a plane - but it's pretty rare for that pilot to be blind.
The 21-year-old woman lost her sight when she was 14.
"It was just like any other day," Armstrong said. "I got out for a bike ride…but I had to come back early because my vision got really blurry, and we found out the next day from doctors that I had an autoimmune disease.
"Fast forward to today, I've lost all of my peripheral [vision] and can only see a couple of inches from my face," she said.
It's all part of an event called Flight For Sight, which is meant to give blind kids a chance to prove that they're capable of anything, according to Marc Ashton, CEO for the Foundation of Blind Children.
"We do a lot of these challenge events to give our kids a chance to prove to the world they can do anything," said Ashton. "She’s flying across the country…and it’s going to show the world that anything can be done."
Tyler Sinclair, a pilot with Leopard Aviation, is helping with the flight as her guide.
"While Kaiya is piloting, I will be just helping her navigate, helping her just basically keep the plane level," Sinclair said. "She’s actually really good at it, so yeah, I just give her some small verbal cues…but she does most of the flying herself."
Kaiya's journey has already taken her to Colorado Springs and Kansas City. She's expected to head to Louisville, Kentucky on Oct. 10 before heading to Washington, D.C. on Oct. 13 for World Sight Day.
"I think the biggest message I want everyone - both sighted and blind - to take away from this is that we don’t have limits," Armstrong said. "The only limits that we have are the ones that we’ve given ourselves, and I want everybody stop limiting themselves."
Follow her journey here.
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