May 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Air Force removes height requirement in bid for more women pilots

An Air Force pilot climbs into a EA-18G Growler aircraft in 2018.

An Air Force pilot climbs into a EA-18G Growler aircraft in 2018. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The Air Force removed its minimum and maximum hight requirement for pilots in an attempt to expand the diversity of its pool of prospective applicants, specifically to encourage more women to enlist.

Why it matters: The previous height requirement of between 5-foot-4 and 6-foot-5, with a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches, eliminated around 44% of American women between the ages of 20 and 29.

  • The new policy, which went into effect on May 13, no longer requires applicants to submit a height waiver.

What they're saying: "We’re really focused on identifying and eliminating barriers to serve in the Air Force," Gwendolyn DeFilippi, assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in a statement. "This is a huge win, especially for women and minorities of smaller stature who previously may have assumed they weren’t qualified to join our team."

  • Lt. Col. Jessica Ruttenber, Air Force mobility planner and programmer and team leader on the Women’s Initiative Team, said the waiver process for initiates outside the height requirements "served as a barrier, which negatively impacted female rated accessions."
  • Ruttenber added that, historically, most of the Air Force's aircraft were engineered around the height of an average male.

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