Previously, aspiring Air Force pilots had to be 5’4 “to 6’5” tall and 34 to 40 inches tall. Applicants less than 5’4 “or higher than 6’5” had to submit an exemption.
“Studies have shown that women’s perceptions of being fully qualified for a job make them less likely to apply, even if there is an opt-out option,” said Air Force Mobility Planner and Programmer Lt. Col. Jessica Ruttenber in last week’s press release.
Historically, most Air Force aircraft had been designed to match an average man, said Ruttenber, who spearheaded efforts to change height standards. The new policy will allow the Air Force to “accommodate a larger and more diverse pool of candidates within the constraints of existing aircraft,” he said.
The average height for US women aged 20 and over is 63.8 inches across all ethnic groups, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, the average height for U.S. males 20 and older is 69.3 inches.
The new policy removes the height barrier “while preserving flight safety,” said the Air Force.
Instead of height standards, medical and operational teams will now apply an anthropometric screening process to applicants to position them on a plane that can fly safely, the Air Force said. This process could include several measurements of the human body, including weight, limb length, amplitude and body mass index.
“We are truly focused on identifying and removing barriers to serving in the Air Force,” said Gwendolyn DeFilippi, deputy chief of staff for staff, staff and services.
“This is a huge victory, especially for women and minority minorities who previously could have assumed they were not qualified to join our team.”
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