The Air Force is scrapping minimum and maximum height requirements for pilots in a bid primarily to attract more female candidates. Until earlier this week the standard Air Force pilot was between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 5 inches tall with a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches. About 44 percent of females between the ages of 20 and 29 are shorter or taller than that. Now, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to pilot dimensions, recruiters can assess candidates individually and see which airplanes they fit. “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, who led the initiative.
There are plenty of Air Force pilots who don’t meet the current height requirements but to get past the initial interview they had to apply for a waiver and undergo further assessment. Most of those waivers were approved but the step of applying for one was a deterrent for many candidates. “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,” said Ruttenber, a mobility planner and programmer.