Air Force clarifies policies for pregnant aircrew

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nick Z. Erwin
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The U.S. Air Force recently clarified its polices that lifted some pregnancy restrictions for aircrew members. Air Force officials underscored that aircrew members may voluntarily request to fly during pregnancy and no waiver is required to fly in the second trimester with an uncomplicated pregnancy in a non-ejection seat aircraft if all flight safety criteria are met. All pregnant aircrew are authorized to apply for a waiver regardless of trimester, aircraft or flight profile.

These changes, implemented in 2019, represent data-driven policy adjustments, to include pushing some authorities down to the lowest level possible. To avoid any further confusion about the current policy, the Air Force Personnel Center emailed the policy clarifications to the entire force March 31.

“These changes are a significant step in the right direction to empowering every member of our team to serve to their full potential,” said Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “The Department of the Air Force’s most important asset is our people. We are focused on eliminating barriers that hamper the ability to attract and retain the most talented individuals who want to serve.”

Pregnant aircrew members who wish to fly must be appropriately informed of risk to self, fetus, safety of flight and mission, consistent with all medical conditions. Approval is granted through joint consent of the aviator, obstetrics provider, flight surgeon and commander.

Waiver requests will be considered for those outside of 12–28 weeks of pregnancy, and for all airframes including single seat, ejection seat, and high-G capable airframes. The owning major command surgeon general is the waiver approval authority. Local medical personnel are not authorized to refuse consideration of a waiver request. DAF senior leaders will monitor the implementation of the policy through a monthly review of the number of waivers submitted, the number approved and denied, and the reason for those decisions.

“It’s unfortunate that there was needless confusion around this policy for so long, which is why we’ll be actively monitoring its implementation moving forward. As leaders we know transparency allows for accountability, and accountability helps to build trust,” said Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones. “The pacing challenge demands that we’re not needlessly grounding our aircrew.”

Waiver acceptability is determined using individualized flight safety risk assessment and requires input from the obstetrics provider, flight surgeon, and operational profile. Initial waiver authority decision can be appealed with a written request by the aviator.

“As leaders, we trust our aviators to perform operational risk assessments and safely execute the mission every day,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. “Clarifying this policy is about enabling Airmen to make an informed, personal decision, and providing support to both the member and the waiver authority.”

The Women’s Initiatives Team, one of the seven teams that comprise the Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group, contributed vital input from women across the enterprise as the service evaluated the policy.

“Empowering women to make decisions for their own bodies and trusting them to appropriately manage risk, just as they do each time they step to the aircraft, will ensure all women aviators are able to perform to their full potential during all stages of womanhood, particularly pregnancy,” said Maj. Samantha Sliney, WIT co-chair. “Through its research, the WIT discovered that women aviators generally did not know that they could seek a waiver to continue to fly during certain stages of pregnancy, depending on the aircraft. We appreciate recent efforts to clarify that policy and we are actively engaged to lower the level of waiver authority for uncomplicated pregnancies in all trimesters.”