The Air Force has relaxed the minimum height requirement for officer aviators. Previously, pilot candidates must have been between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet five inches tall while standing, with a sitting height between 34 and 40 inches. This requirement ended on May 13.
While prospective pilots could apply for waivers to the old rule – which were frequently granted – Air Force leadership determined that it hindered accession of women and smaller minorities. The restriction ruled out as many as 40 percent of all female applicants for pilot training between ages 20 and 29.
“Studies have shown that women’s perceptions about being fully qualified for a job makes them less likely to apply, even though there is a waiver option. Modifying the height standard allows the Air Force to accommodate a larger and more diverse rated applicant pool within existing aircraft constraints,” said Lt. Col. Jessica Ruttenber, the service’s mobility planner and programmer. Ruttenber also led the internal team tasked with revising the height standard.
“While most height waivers were approved under the old system, feedback indicated the entire waiver process served as a barrier, which negatively impacted female rated accessions,” said Lt. Col. Christianne Opresko, an aerospace physiologist who works for the service’s air crew task force. “It’s hard to determine who many women did not previously apply due to their perception of not being fully qualified or having to pursue a waiver.”