Air Force Takes First Step to Buy Maternity Flight Suits

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Air Force Capt. Christine Durham, Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, gives a briefing to her students prior to a training mission Feb. 5, 2019, at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas. The current PTN class is comprised of 26 students, including 16 active duty officer students (six of whom are participating in a remotely-piloted aircraft only track), two Air National Guard officers, two U.S. Navy officers, one Royal Air Force officer, and five enlisted airmen. The instruction in the second ve
Air Force Capt. Christine Durham, Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, gives a briefing to her students prior to a training mission Feb. 5, 2019, at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas. The current PTN class is comprised of 26 students, including 16 active duty officer students (six of whom are participating in a remotely-piloted aircraft only track), two Air National Guard officers, two U.S. Navy officers, one Royal Air Force officer, and five enlisted airmen. The instruction in the second version is shaped from the success of and lessons learned from the first PTN program, where 13 officers graduated in June 2018 and progressed to advanced training across multiple platforms. (Sean M. Worrell/U.S. Air Force)

The U.S. Air Force has taken the first step in seeking new female maternity flight suits.

In a request for information solicitation posted on the government's acquisition and awards website, the service's Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is asking companies to identify themselves if they have the means to make the garments.

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While the Air Force is not requesting ideas or proposals at this time, the RFI could lead to a contract award in the future, according to the solicitation. The service does not currently have a formal maternity flight suit.

Vendors wishing to be considered must be capable of producing "400 flight suits to be delivered within 6 months of contract award," the RFI states.

Qualified vendors also must meet certain criteria in the suit's development and distribution: The suits need to be flame resistant and can be one- or two-piece. The company ought to have the ability to ship flight suits directly to pilots and crew members within one week of placing orders, it said.

Fabrics will also be assessed on moisture wicking, fast drying, breathability, stretchiness, stability and health toxicity, among other factors, AFLCMC said. Colors must match the current Air Force sage green, and Army and Air Force tan/coyote brown patterns, it said.

Responses are due by July 6.

Last year, the Air Force announced it had begun allowing some female pilots to stay in the cockpit longer while pregnant without need of a medical waiver.

The change applied to remotely piloted aircrew, missile operations duty crews and certain fully qualified pilot positions without additional restrictions put on their time in service, the Air Force said last September.

Previously, all female Air Force pilots were removed from flight duty after they confirmed their pregnancy, according to spokeswoman Capt. Carrie Volpe. That included drone pilots who work in operations facilities on the ground.

Women would have to file extensive paperwork for a waiver just to be allowed duty time between weeks 1 and 34 of pregnancy, Volpe said at the time.

Similarly, under the old policy, fully qualified pilots who flew dual-seat, non-ejection aircraft --

KC-135 Stratotankers, C-130 Hercules, etc. -- would have to apply for a waiver to fly between 13 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.

While the waiver process is no longer required, airmen still need a "return to flight status" check if they fly in an aircraft, which is a precautionary appointment made with a medical professional to certify the pilot for flight.

Pilots are still prohibited from flying in the first trimester of pregnancy, deploying overseas and flying ejection-seat aircraft, such as fighter jets.

The service also launched a project in 2019 within AFLCMC focused on gathering female perspectives to develop better-fitting uniforms and gear.

The initiative was prompted by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein's mission to redesign female uniforms, including gear and flight suits, after many years of ill-fitting equipment.

Earlier this month, the service said it awarded a contract for thousands of sets of body armor specifically designed to fit its female security forces airmen, with the aim of downsizing field gear for those guarding bases worldwide.

The Air Force plans to buy up to 5,600 body armor systems, with deliveries starting this fall.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Related: Air Force OKs Breastfeeding T-Shirt for New Moms

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