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June 7, 2019

USAF redesigns equipment to better fit its female pilots

At the Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia on Tuesday, US Air Force (USAF) and US Navy female pilots participated in the Female Fitment event, where they had their body measurements taken in preparation for the delivery of tailored flight equipment.

By Talal Husseini

At the Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia on Tuesday, US Air Force (USAF) and US Navy female pilots participated in the Female Fitment event, where they had their body measurements taken in preparation for the delivery of tailored flight equipment.

USAF plans and requirements officer Lieutenant Colonel Shelly Mendieta said: “We wanted to bring together a large enough group of women to get our different sizing both in our uniforms, helmets and masks.

“When you go to a squadron to go to a fitment event, there’s usually only a couple of women, so to get a full spectrum of what is going to work for women aviators, we needed to bring them all together in one place.”

Flight equipment has, up until now, been designed using measurements from male pilots, as there are statistically more men than women in the armed forces. But the US Department of Defense (DoD) is hoping to accommodate more female pilots with tailored equipment.

USAF directorate of readiness and training, assistant to the director Brigadier General Edward Vaughan said: “The chief of staff of the USAF is committed to seeing us make progress and better integrate humans into the machine environment mix.

“The goal is to ensure that the equipment that we are developing is going to fit properly so that we have a safe and ready force.”

“What has happened over the years is that a lot of our data and information we use to design these systems have traditionally been based on men.”

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While all body types are different, having military flight equipment designed for men no doubt affects the abilities and combat effectiveness of female pilots, according to Vaughan.

The Female Fitment event will be crucial to the gathering of as much information on female pilots as possible so that the US Armed Forces can begin tailoring all of its equipment. This event is just one part of a major overhaul of military equipment in the US.

“The goal is to ensure that the equipment that we are developing is going to fit properly so that we have a safe and ready force,” Mendieta added. “By measuring a spectrum of women at different stages in their career, we can ensure that we have better equipment.

“Women have been flying in the air force for a very long time. We have made progress but this is the first time in my 20-year career that we have had the kind of momentum that we have to get this right. We have the opportunity to get this right and we have to grab that and take it for all it’s worth.”

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