Pregnant Air Force pilots no longer need a medical waiver to fly and perform other assigned flight duties, the Air Force said Monday.
In a statement, the military branch said certain fully qualified pilots, remotely piloted aircrews and missile operations duty crews can continue to perform their jobs while pregnant if they choose to do so.
“We recognize that each pregnancy is as unique as our professional female aviators we trust to operate our weapon systems,” Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, Air Force surgeon general, said in a statement. “We’re empowering women to work closely with their obstetrician and flight medicine providers to pick a path that is tailored to their individual needs, while ensuring we’re doing everything to support them throughout their pregnancy.”
The new regulation lengthens the time qualified women can fly while pregnant, and eliminates the need for a waiver for women with uncomplicated pregnancies to return to flight.
Air personnel will not be forced to fly while pregnant and pilots with pregnancies without complications who choose to fly can change their minds at any time, the statement said.
“We’re focused on eliminating barriers in our existing policies that signal to female airmen and potential recruits that becoming a parent and being an aviator, controller or missile operator in our service are incompatible," said Lt. Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, Air Force director of staff and an adviser on the branch's diversity and inclusion efforts.
"Really what it's trying to get at is to remove the burden of proof on the pregnant airmen," Air Force spokesperson Lynn Kirby told Fox News. "These airmen are already entrusted to self-identify when they're not healthy to do their jobs. It's removing that barrier where you're automatically assumed to not be healthy to fly because you're pregnant."
The Air Force has enacted other policies in recent months designed to accommodate pregnant flyers, Kirby said. In August, it began requiring units to provide mothers with a lactation area and guidance for nursing breaks.
Pregnant airmen will still not be able to deploy, Kirby said.