The U.S. Air Force has officially lifted its growth restrictions on recruits, according to the U.S. Air Force Education and Training Command. This was done primarily to attract female recruits.
So far, only people who were at least 64 inches (162 centimeters) tall and 77 inches (195 cm) tall could become military pilots. Medical standards also required a cadet to be at least 86 centimetres tall and over one meter tall. The lower height limit will now be removed.
These requirements have been introduced to ensure that pilots meet the standards for cockpits of combat and training aircraft, which were designed based on the size of the conditional average man.
However, women are now serving in the Air Force more and more often. And growth restrictions have become a formal obstacle for many of those who wanted to become military pilots. About 44% of women in the U.S. between the ages of 20 and 29 do not meet these requirements.
“We are identifying and addressing the barriers that prevent people from serving in the Air Force. This is a huge victory, especially for women and small minorities who may still feel they aren’t fit to serve with us,” said Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Personnel and Supply, Gwendolyn de’Philippines.
The Air Force will now have a more flexible system where each candidate will be able to choose an airplane that he or she can comfortably sit in. Not only height will be measured, but also other parameters, such as arm length.
In fact, a low military pilot candidate had previously been able to gain admission, but only as an exception. As U.S. Air Force 19th Air Force commander Major General Craig Willis previously stated, there have been no problems enrolling low achievers in the Air Force before.
“Growth restrictions are technical, not medical, but most of our aircraft can accommodate pilots of any height. The bottom line is that the vast majority of guys below 162 centimeters, who have appealed exceptionally for enrollment, have been approved,” said Willis.
But that practice, the Air Force said, still reduces the number of applicants for service, especially women, who are less likely to push for exceptional enrollment, according to the Air Force.
“It’s hard to even imagine how many women have, as a result, refused to apply just because they have doubts about their suitability or the need for an exception requirement,” said Colonel Christiana Defusco, Air Force Task Force Chief and aerospace physiologist.
Lifting the growth restrictions is just one of many changes in the U.S. Air Force to increase the number of pilots.
A year ago, in April 2019, the U.S. Air Force said it was developing equipment and overalls for women because the existing one was made with only male physiology in mind.
This includes overload suits, life jackets, flight overalls and urinals.