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Navy issues its first maternity flight suit 47 years after welcoming first woman aviators

"These additions are important because they show that leadership supports the idea that having a career and having a family can be compatible."

Navy issues its first maternity flight suit 47 years after welcoming first woman aviators
Cover Image Source: U.S. Navy Reserve

Nearly five decades after welcoming its first woman aviators, the Navy has finally addressed the need for maternity flight suits. According to Navy Times, the very first maternity flight suit was issued to Lt. Cmdr. Jacqueline Nordan, who serves as a mobilization program manager in the Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve (CNAFR), in the spring. "The addition of this uniform item makes an immediate impact on women in the Navy," Nordan said in a May 8 Navy press release. "It shows that leadership is listening and is supportive in response to the issues that female aviators are raising."


The maternity flight suit is designed to accommodate pregnant aircrew as they progress in their pregnancy by adding expandable panels to standard flight suits. In addition to providing a snugger, more professional fit, this also means that pregnant aviators only need one flight suit for the duration of their pregnancy. "Prior to the maternity flight suit, pregnant aircrew have generally collected larger-sized flight suits and gone up through additional sizes throughout their pregnancy, potentially needing three to five additional flight suits," Nordan explained. "Wearing a larger-sized flight suit results in longer hems and sleeves, potentially presenting a safety hazard in the aircrew cleared to fly during pregnancy."


"Additionally, wearing clothing that is clearly too large for you presents a less professional appearance for daily business. Pregnant aircrew who are not flying are still conducting squadron business," she continued. "They're still instructing classes, working in simulators, giving briefings, and representing their organizations. It makes a big difference to be able to continue to represent ourselves professionally in a well-fitting uniform throughout a pregnancy." Nordan added that she understands the impact this change will have on her fellow female aircrew's experience while growing their families and that she is grateful to be a part of the project.


"I'm thrilled to participate in moving this initiative forward. The CNAFR supply and maintenance teams have put some hard work into determining how we could incorporate these uniforms into our current system, and they deserve all the credit. I get the easy job – I just put the uniform on in the morning and loosen the waist straps as the weeks go by," she said. "These additions are important because they show that leadership supports the idea that having a career and having a family can be compatible. Being a dedicated Navy professional while building a family can be done. Moves like making a daily uniform item more wearable during pregnancy remove some of the small barriers that can build up and discourage women from going down that path."


Amie Blade, a spokesperson for Naval Air Systems Command, revealed that a few other pregnant members of the command have also received the uniform in a test run to determine its usefulness. Additionally, the Navy reportedly has prepared a small stash of these flight suits to accommodate new order requests. The maternity flight suits stem from the Navy's larger effort to adjust grooming and uniform standards across the service to "make our existing workforce physically more comfortable and feel more presentable," said Blade. "Upon examination, it was discovered that prototype expandable panels could be sewn into existing flight suits and would be easily customized to fit using the existing tab on the side of a regular flight suit."


"The maternity flight suit not only makes our pregnant workforce more comfortable, but it alleviates the potential safety hazard of extended hems and seams," Blade said. "Also, flight suits are uniforms that are earned, and the women who have earned them should be able to wear them." She added that the Navy is currently gathering feedback from the prototypes and will modify the uniform accordingly if needed.

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