The requirements prevented applicants with a standing height below 64 inches or above 77 inches or a sitting height below 34 inches or above 40 inches from entering the cockpit without a waiver. The Air Force said it changed the policy to encourage a "more diverse pool of applicants."
Although "most height requirements" were approved, the restriction initially eliminated about 44 percent of the U.S. female population who were between 20 and 29 years old, according to the Air Force.
"We're really focused on identifying and eliminating barriers to serve in the Air Force," said Gwendolyn DeFilippi, assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. "This is a huge win, especially for women and minorities of smaller stature who previously may have assumed they weren't qualified to join our team."
Between 2007 and 2010, the average height for females over 19 years old across all ethnic groups in the United States was 63.8 inches, the Air Force reported, citing Department of Health and Human Services Anthropometric Reference Data.
Males over the age of 19 across all ethnic groups had an average height of 69.3 inches.
Lt. Col. Christianne Opresko, branch chief on the Air Force's Air Crew Task Force and an aerospace physiologist, said the waiver process acted as a barrier "which negatively impacted female rated accessions."
"It's hard to determine how many women did not previously apply due to their perception of not being fully qualified or having to pursue a waiver," he said.
Under the new policy, the Air Force will use what it calls an "anthropometric screening process" to assess what aircraft they can fly safely.