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In 1974, the U.S. Navy employed a female pilot for the first time. And while everyone knows, women can get pregnant and need different clothes, the introduction of maternity wear has been a long time coming. But now, 47 years later, flight suits for pregnant pilots are available.
United States Navy introduces flight suit for pregnant pilots
It appears the U.S. Navy has followed the example of their colleagues at the U.S. Air Force. They have been working for years to adjust the policy regarding pregnant employees. From 2019, pregnant women could decide for themselves whether they want to fly, something that was prohibited until then. In November 2020, the U.S. Air Force was working on clothes for pregnant pilots. The clothing is currently still in the testing phase and should be ready for production by the end of 2021.
The U.S. Navy is still lagging behind. Although pregnant ladies will have a modified uniform, most will continue to work on the ground. Under U.S. Navy guidelines, pregnancy automatically disqualifies you from flying duties. It is possible to get an exemption, but there are also rules attached to this. Besides medical approval, a pregnant pilot may only fly with dual controls and a (co-) pilot with a less restrictive medical qualification.
The ladies may not fly with an ejection seat or powerful aircraft (more than 2G). Aircrafts that conduct shipboard operations or fly higher than 10,000 feet (over 3000 meters) are also off-limits. And in the third trimester of their pregnancy, flying is prohibited.
Wrong way around?
When I look at the regulations surrounding pregnant pilots, the uniform seems to be too early. It would be handy to review the policy first. For example, look at the U.S. Air Force regulations. They have been working on this for years and therefore have experience with it. The launch of the U.S. Navy flight suit looks like a nod to politics. It looks easier for pregnant women to fly, while in practice, the rules counteract this.
Well, the first step has been taken. Now let’s hope they will also revise the policy so women have more rights over their bodies and pregnancy. It’s about time…