Allowing a second chance for aspiring pilots with height waivers

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jake Jacobsen
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

The journey to become a U.S. Air Force pilot can be a rewarding experience for those willing to put in the effort, unfortunately some may be deterred from this experience because they think they don’t meet the Air Force’s height requirement.

Some aspiring pilot candidates might be under the impression that they are too short, or even too tall to become a pilot. However, by working with commissioning sources for pilot candidates an individual can seek possible anthropometric waiver opportunities.

The Air Force standing height requirements are currently a minimum of 5 feet 4 inches (64 inches) to a maximum of 6 feet 5 inches (77 inches) and sitting height of 34-40 inches. But if a candidate does not fall into this spectrum it is not necessarily a barrier to entry and they still have a shot.

Standing at 6 feet 8 inches Maj. Nate at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, is one of those pilots who had to go through the waiver process.

“I went to get measured and busted the standing height limit but made the sitting height limit two-tenths of an inch,” Nate said. “If I didn’t make that sitting height limit the aircraft I could fly would have been greatly affected.”

All candidates receive a medical evaluation to determine physical capability and are measured against Air Force Instruction 48-123, “Medical Examinations and Standards.” For those who do not meet the standard height requirements, anthropometric measurements are completed at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, or a specialty team conducts the measurements at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“I went through the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, which has an initial pilot qualification program where you get measured before entering but it is not as in-depth to what the process at the U.S. Air Force Academy is,” Nate said.

Anthropometric measurements include functional reach, wingspan, body mass, weight-to-height ratio, waist-to-hip, hip-to-knee and more.

After Nate completed his anthropometric measurements he was able to get a waiver and continue into pilot training.

First Lt. Christina Nicholson, 48th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, is on the other side of the height spectrum.

Nicholson stands 5 feet 4 inches and just barely made the minimum standing and sitting height requirements to join without a waiver. For those who are on the cusp, further cockpit evaluation and accommodations can be safely made.

“I have made adjustments to the rudder pedals and adjusted the seat to accommodate my height in the aircraft,” Nicholson said.

Even with these factors Nicholson is able to do her Air Force duty and contributes to the mission of creating pilots.

In order for the Air Force to maintain its aerial supremacy, it needs to maintain its diverse force. According to U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, 43.5% of U.S. women, ages 20-29, have a stature of 64 inches or less. This pool of potential candidates, in addition to others who are too short or too tall, should not self-eliminate because they feel their height will not qualify. The standard height and sitting requirements should not be a barrier and those interested need to apply and work through the system.

If you are interested in learning more about height waivers, work with your commission source or contact the Air Force Call Center at 1-800-423-USAF.