New maternity options for aviators Published Jan. 8, 2021 By Maj. Maggie Arrington 552nd Air Control Wing TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The Air Force is testing a program to eliminate a barrier for pregnant aviators, prompting some women to exclaim, ‘I can fly again! ... and grow a baby!’ The prototype maternity flight suit uniform is helping expectant mothers like Capt. Beatrice Horne, a section lead air battle manager aboard the E-3 AWACS, 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron. Women want to do their jobs, but can’t if the flight suit doesn’t fit. Horne faced this situation May 2020, when she was in her first trimester. “When I found out I was pregnant…[her initial thought was] I didn’t want to fall behind with training,” said Horne. For a flier, training to get back to flight status is lengthy, so the longer one can fly and stay current, the better for all. Horne’s leadership approached her about the Uniform Department’s testing initiative. Horne liked the idea. Otherwise, her thought was to buy a bigger flight suit or ask people to borrow theirs. “You can’t wear anything else when you fly. It’s either the one or two-piece flight suit,” she said. There isn’t a maternity option. “Normal flight suits, even two sizes bigger, still didn’t accommodate my body as it grew,” Horne said. Horne contacted the Uniform Department and signed up to try the maternity prototype. They walked her through the measuring process. “I was still very early in my pregnancy, so they had to estimate how I would grow,” she said. A few weeks later they sent her the package. This package was small and didn’t look like much resting in her hands, but it opened the door to her airframe. She could once again step onto the E-3 and fly a mission. “If more women knew about it, then maybe it would be easier for female aviators just to say, ‘Oh, like I have clothes that fit now,’” Horne said. “Maybe they would feel more comfortable, included and capable to fly a few more weeks to carry their flight currency through their pregnancy.” She added, “This is a great program that opens up opportunities for us.” The Air Force has improved its pregnancy policies, as well. Women no longer need to attain a medical waiver for permission to fly in their second trimester. The Air Force has eliminated the paperwork barrier and now it’s tackling the physical elements that keep women off the flight line. As well as the maternity uniform, there is a sizing initiative under way for all women in the Air Force. From Jan. 25-29, the 552 ACW has arranged for a team of Air Force anthropometric research scientists to arrive at Tinker Air Force Base to take measurements of women in the Air Force. These measurements will be used to build a master database. This database will be used by all Female Fitment projects. That includes better fitting and functional uniforms, armor, lifesaving equipment and much more. To get involved in programs like this, contact the Women’s Initiative Team: 552 ACW Chapter. Contact Maj. Margaret Arrington directly at Margaret.email@example.com or sign up on the WIT SharePoint page via the 552 ACW Integrated Resiliency section on the left side of the homepage. To sign up for an opportunity to test out the new prototype two-piece flight suit for women who aren’t pregnant. Sign up via this survey link here. Participants will need to be available to travel to Wright Patterson Air Force Base Feb. 18-19. Expect the maternity flight suit in production early this year and for the new two- piece female flight suit to being production in October 2021.