May 21 (UPI) -- The Air Force announced Thursday that it has removed the minimum height requirement for officer applicants who wish to fly.
According to the service, the change -- which took effect May 13 -- is part of an effort to encourage a more diverse pool of applicants to pursue careers in aviation.
"We're really focused on identifying and eliminating barriers to serve in the Air Force," said Gwendolyn DeFilippi, assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. DeFilippi, who chairs the Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group, explained, "This is a huge win, especially for women and minorities of smaller stature who previously may have assumed they weren't qualified to join our team."
Under the pervious Medical Standards Directory requirement, an individual who wanted to become a pilot had to have a standing height between 5'4" and 6'5" and have a sitting height between 34 and 40 inches.
Under the new policy, initial applicants outside that height range no longer require an accession range.
The previous height screening criteria eliminated about 44 percent of American women between the age of 20 and 29, the Air Force said.
"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 Lt. Col. Jessica Ruttenber, Air Force mobility planner and programmer and team leader on the Women's Initiative Team, who led the height standards adjustment effort. "Modifying the height standard allows the Air Force to accommodate a larger and more diverse rated applicant pool within existing aircraft constraints."