E-3 AWACS first airframe in Air Force anthropometrics study

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff, 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

A team of engineers from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s, Air Force CBRN Defense Systems Branch, Airmen Accommodation Laboratory is on a mission to study height requirements for career enlisted aviators around the Air Force. Their first stop was at the 552nd Air Control Wing.

The 552nd ACW at Tinker Air Force Base operates the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control Systems aircraft, which is the first Air Force airframe to participate in the anthropometric accommodation study.

The team specializes in measuring various body proportions and will measure both small and large frame aviators on 22 airframes in the Air Force.

Using 3D scans, the team gathers the data and compares it with the tasks currently performed to determine if an individual is able to do their job safely and effectively within the aircraft, regardless of their height.

“This study started with the Women’s Initiative Team,” said Jennifer Whitestone, lead anthropometry expert for the Air Force. “We saw that 44% of women are excluded [going by the 1967 standard] and it makes sense to change. Maybe eventually change will happen, but first we must identify the problem areas.”

The current height range for aviators is between 5 feet 4 and 6 feet 5. That’s based on 1967 standards in a seated position, unlike today’s Airmen who are required to move around the aircraft while in flight.

In addition to excluding some women, the 1967 study also excludes 74% of African Americans, 72% of Latino Americans and 61% of Asian Americans who are smaller or larger in stature, unless they obtain a waiver.

“We are trying to show that more than the average Joe can operate within this plane,” said Zach Starcher, a program manager and lead of the Airmen Accommodation Lab. “We are throwing away a lot of untapped potential.”

Whitestone agreed.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the Air Force to beef up its personnel,” she added. “The WIT saw that there are large number of people who could clearly do the job. They might have the skillset, education and the desire to do the job, but are being eliminated strictly based on their height.  We would like to open up opportunities for this part of the population and strengthen the USAF work force.”

Senior Amn. Alise Gammalo, with the 965th Airborne Air Control Squadron thought it was cool the Air Force is doing this study.

“I wanted to volunteer to help the Air Force become more inclusive and help future Airmen,” said Gammalo.

Chief Master Sgt. Kenny Mott, the 552nd ACW command chief, said this study is historic.

“We’re going to change the Air Force and Space Force by making sure we aren’t limiting people based on an outdated or unclear standards or requirement, particularly for women in our service,” he said.

Mott added a message for those women.

“We need women and other minorities to continue to be bold advocates for change.” he said. “When you see something that doesn’t fit, or is not clearly defined, become an advocate for its change. If there is something I need that will make me a more effective Airman, I am going to keep asking for it. One ‘no’ is not enough and is really just the beginning of the conversation toward change. We must all understand how important these changes are to building an environment of diversity and inclusion.”