Major Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell is the first
female African-American fighter pilot in
the U.S. Air Force. How cool is that?
Although the mission has symbolic importance, its purpose was anything but – the women soared in to give much-needed aid to the ground troops who were engaged in heavy fighting in the Kunar Valley (for more on the mission, check out this link).
Women pilots have been flying combat missions for the Air Force for 18 years; however, it is gravely concerning to find out that they might not be as well protected as their male counterparts.
The Air Force is preparing to buy a new fleet aircraft to conduct light attack and armed reconnaissance (LAAR) and light air support (LAS) missions, and competition is fierce between the American company Hawker Beechcraft and the Brazilian company Embraer. Although people are talking about issues that surround outsourcing our defense contracts and the free market implications of foreign and domestic companies competing, what people are not talking about is the safety threat that will be posed to female pilots if Embraer is awarded the contract.
The planes that Hawker Beechcraft and Embraer have proposed for the contract are very similar, and cost roughly the same. However, the ejection seat in the Embraer aircraft yields an extremely high impact, whereas the Hawker Beechcraft model does not. This high-impact seat poses significant safety concerns for pilots of lower height and weight. This disproportionately threatens the safety of female pilots, as they are typically of smaller stature than male pilots.
The idea that the USAF would even consider an aircraft that posed such a safety threat should outrage Americans. And that outrage needs to be heard – we must not stand idly by while crucial safety concerns are passed over by the Pentagon. We need women (and men!) to speak up on this issue and make it clear that they will not tolerate the women who serve to be any less protected than the men.
Please consider writing to your representatives, or expanding the online conversation by taking this issue to new forums. The brave women in our Air Force take to the skies to protect us; don’t we owe it to them to make sure they are protected?
This article was written and sent to me by Emily McGann. Though Emily made it clear that she didn't need any recognition for it, I want everybody to know that she is the expert here, not me! If you would like to contact Emily about this article, you can reach her here!