Fit to fight: redesigning aircrew flight equipment for females

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christopher Quail

Over 60 female aviators from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy gathered at Joint Base Langley-Eustis to have their measurements taken.

Across all of the U.S. military branches, flight equipment is in the process of being redesigned to find a better fit for females.

“This is the first time that I have been fitted in the past seven years of being in,” said Staff Sgt. Emily Murray, 9th Airlift Squadron flight engineer. “When I received my flight equipment, all they had me do was choose from unisex sizes and try them on to see which best fit.”

Proper equipment is pivotal to mission execution and the safety of the military member, but historically, flight equipment designs have been based on the anthropometric measurements of male aviators, which has led to sizing issues for female aviators when it comes to flight suits, urinary devices, G-suits and survival vests.

“When I was going on a mission, I ran into issues of my seat belt/shoulder harness not fitting properly,” Murray said. “It was an extra 40 minutes just for us to take off, because it had to be replaced for safety precautions.”

Murray said that, while she was at the event being measured, she talked to several other fellow female aviators who faced different flight equipment issues.

“One of the female pilots I talked to mentioned that she had to terminate a training sortie with her student,” Murray said. “The pilot said it was due to lack of a proper seal and not receiving enough oxygen.”

The measurements collected will be used to innovate new flight equipment that will enhance the readiness of our flying female warfighters.

"We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and (one) can be in for hours on end,”  said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein at a Defense Writers Group breakfast, March 2018 in Washington, D.C.