Tiny But Mighty

Tiny But Mighty

Nicole Malachowski |

This is the tall and the short of it. During pilot training, people used to chuckle at me and my Instructor Pilot, Michael McLaughlin, anytime we’d step to a T-38 jet to go fly together. At the time, I was the minimum allowable height to become a fighter pilot (5′ 4″) and he was, well, the other side of the height spectrum. I’d honestly pray our assigned jet was close to the building, else I’d be jogging at a reasonable pace for yards to keep up with him. At times, I’d be breathless before I even got the engines started.

When I was a cadet at the Air Force Academy, I used to hang upside down on the pull-up bars to try to ‘stretch’ my spine. I was terrified I’d not make the minimum height requirements to become a fighter pilot (*of note, the Air Force recently, and rightfully, did away with height restrictions and modern aircraft design is taking into account all body types).

I distinctly remember when the day came for the “official height measurement” to see if I qualified to attend pilot training. I hung upside down for hours the night prior and laid prone in bed until the time was right. I’m proud to say, I measured in at 5’4″ and 1/16″….one-sixteenth inch of a buffer (whew!). At that moment, I felt unstoppable.

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