Flight Preparation

Flight Preparation

  • All passengers (see an exception for Retirees below) need a Uniformed Services ID showing their DoD ID Number to travel Space-A.   Children under 10 years of age (without ID cards), will need a passport for identification but should have their DOD ID number which can be retrieved from the MilConnect Website.
  • All Passengers need their Uniformed Services ID card (if 10 years of age and over). 
  • Retirees with a Retired ID still showing their SSN "may" still be excepted.  HINT: Get your ID updated with a DoD ID Number!
  • Active Duty (or Activated Reservists) and their Dependents need their current leave form and/or EML orders as applicable
  • Unaccompanied Dependents (Active or Activated Reservists) must have one of the following letters (signed by Sponsor's Commander):
    • Unaccompanied Command Sponsored Dependent Space-A Letter (copy is OK)
    • Unaccompanied Non-Command Sponsored Dependent Space-A Letter (copy is OK)
    • Unaccompanied Dependent Dependent Verification Space-A Letter (Deployed Military Member)  (copy is OK)
  • Active Reservist/Guardsmen (not on Active Duty over 30 days) need a DD Form 1853 signed by Commander or First Sergeant
  • Passports (Active Duty):  Consult the Foreign Clearance Guide for Passport and other requirements if traveling in a leave status to foreign countries
  • Passports (Others) - as required by the foreign destination (some foreign countries require at least 6 months left on a passport) you plan to visit or transit based on your citizenship/nationality. Active duty dependents stationed overseas should use their issued "No-Fee/Official Passport" when returning to the overseas station.
    •  Does your passport reflect your legal name? If you have changed your name (e.g. recent marriage) you may use your marriage certificate or court documents to “prove” the difference of names on your passport and Identification Cards. However, it is highly recommended you update your passport as soon as the name change occurs. For more info consult the Department of State Website.
  • Visas:  If a US citizen then check the Visa requirements for the country you plan to travel to at State Dept Country Info.  If not a US citizen then you'll need to check with the respective Country for Visa requirements.
  • Immunizations and records as required by foreign countries (check State Dept Country Info)
  • NOTE: It is YOUR responsibility to verify you have the correct documentation and it's current for the duration of your trip! 
  •  (As of 2012): This topic is not unique to Space-A but comes up all the time. Historically there have been two camps in this debate - Camp #1 insist that using a no-fee passport for leisure travel is OK as they have traveled to/from USA in the past without any issues. Camp #2 has a hissy fit when someone mentions using a no-fee passport for leisure travel. The answer isn't totally clear cut so let's see what the facts are.
  • The Department of State "No-Fee" Passport web site states:
  • "You may use your no-fee passport book only when traveling overseas in discharge of your official duties. For personal travel, you must to use a regular fee passport book or card. You may have both a valid regular passport book and a valid no-fee passport book at the same time."
  • That's fairly definitive unless one argues that traveling between your assigned overseas duty location and the the USA is considered "official duties."
  • Most/all no fee passports also contain an endorsement stamp that states:
  • "This passport is valid only for use in connection with the bearer's residence abroad as a dependent of a member of the American military or Naval forces on active duty outside the United States." This is a little less definitive and one could argue that traveling between your assigned overseas duty location and the the USA is "in connection with the bearer's residence abroad."
  • So, if a border control agent for a country other than the one where you are assigned reads that endorsement then they can deny a traveler access to their country or detain you to find out what "official military business" you have in their country. If the countries you are using the no-fee passport to enter are the USA and your assigned country (e.g. Germany) then the border control agent should have no problem with the no-fee passport and explains why folks in Camp #1 have not experienced any issues traveling back and forth to the USA (e.g. Space-A from Ramstein to BWI).
  • Now, let's look at the Foreign Clearance Guide (FCG) (Manual) - this is the document Passenger Service Agents normally use to determine if your border clearance documents are valid. In December 2011 the language in the FCG was revised to clarify this issue. The FCG now states:
  • "Service members and their eligible family members stationed abroad and issued no-fee passports may use these passports for incidental personal travel during the period of their overseas assignment. While outside the United States, no-fee passports may be used for incidental personal travel between foreign destinations providing the foreign government concerned accepts no-fee passports for personal travel. If the foreign government does not accept no-fee passports for personal travel, travelers must obtain regular fee passports at their own expense." The FCG defines "Incidental Travel" to be: "Travel DoD-sponsored travelers for purposes other than in the discharge of U.S. Government business." For example, France REQUIRES a Tourist Passport (as of 2012) and you could be fined for using a no-fee for leisure travel.
  • Normally, transit of a country by travelers that do not exit the airport transit area (immigration control) do not require a passport or visa for that country. However, some countries (i.e., Russia, China, etc.) require both a passport and a transit visa. Refer to the Entry/Exit requirements listed on the various Dept of State Country Pages and the FCG to determine what documents /passports/visas are required for each country.
  • So, based on the latest revision of the FCG, what travelers have experienced and my own experience here's my "unofficial" view/opinion/recommendations etc....
    • Go ahead and get a regular Tourist Passport. If you are going to do any sort of traveling while overseas then it is probably going to be required to legally visit places like France, England etc.... The passport will be good for 10 years (adults) and you'll be able to use it for overseas travel after your overseas duty assignment. Bring both passports with you when you travel (I do).
    • If you refuse (or can't afford) to get a Tourist Passport then, according to the Dec 11 version of the FCG incidental travel (directly between your assigned duty location and the USA (e.g. Ramstein to USA)) is authorized. If you try to travel (Space-A) through another country (England, Spain etc...) or if your flight gets diverted en-route to another country you "could" run into problems.

According to the regulations, "Space-Available passengers will not be removed in favor of other Space-Available passengers (same or better category)." So, this means, once you are manifested, (again, per the regulations) you should not lose your seat (at the originating or en-route station) to another Space-A passenger. That's not to say it won't happen so it behooves you to know the rules. However, you're not entirely safe once you are manifested. When necessary, Space-A passengers can be removed at the originating or en-route stations to accommodate Space-Required passenger/cargo. The order of selection for removal will begin with the lowest priority passenger with the latest date/time of sign-up as reflected on the manifest. If bumped and you choose to continue travel to your specified destination, you shall will compete again for seats with your original date/time of sign-up. For a full description of these rules, consult Air Mobility Command Instruction 24-101 Vol 14. Bottom line, regulations say you can't be "bumped" for another Space-A passenger but you can get bumped for duty/medevac pax or high priority (e.g. hazardous) cargo.

  • C-5 Galaxy: Common to/from overseas. The AF choice for long haul and the C-5 has pretty good airline type seats (normally 73) facing the rear with little or no windows for passengers. C-5s have a reputation for always being broke! Stay away from sitting by the stairs, it can get cold. Also keep away from the bathroom, it can get stinky and warm. Here's a view inside a C-5 and a typical C5 seat. The seat armrests can fold up and you can stretch out across three seats if the flight is not full!  Typical airline type toilet.  Finally, you may have to climb either an internal ladder or external stairs to access the passenger compartment.
  • C-9 Skytrain logistics aircraft:  Not Common.  The Navy and Marine Corps C-9 aircraft provide cargo and passenger transportation. Air Force C-9s have been used for medical evacuation, passenger transportation, and special missions. See the Tips for traveling on Navy C-9s under the C-40 section below.
  • C-17 Globemaster:  Common to/from overseas.  Reputation for uncomfortable seats unless it has a seat kit installed. Here's a typical C-17 seat. Also, here's some C-17 travel tips with seat, noise and toilet info.  Super Reliable Plane!  Depending on the mission you can often lay on the floor if you have a sleeping bag and/or air mattress.
  • C-20: Military versions of the Gulfstream III
  • C-21: Basically a Learjet, very reliable; the cream of the crop. Makes you feel like you have your own Learjet but limited on luggage space (keep your bag under 30lbs!)
  • C-37A: Mostly out of MacDill and Andrews AFBs
  • C-38: Used primarily out of Andrews AFB for operational support and distinguished visitor transport.
  • C-40: Common on Navy routes.  Basically a Boeing 737-700.
    • Tip #1: On Navy C-9s and C-40s , the Navy cabin crew will run extension cords down the aisle so that passengers can plug into ac power. If you plan ahead and bring a power strip, your device (e.g. laptop) gets priority.
    • Tip #2: Navy C-9s and C-40s offer only soft drinks and pogey-bait (snacks) for a modest price and it's rare passengers will be offered the chance to buy a box-lunch. If you plan ahead you may be able to use the small oven (not micro-wave) to heat things. Clean up your own mess!
  • C-130 Hercules: Common within a theater.  Slow, noisy but you can stretch out and sleep if there is enough room. The toilets on some C-130s are not very private; basically a porta potty behind a screen. Almost always sidewall seats unless configured for a DV (distinguished visitor). If configured for DVs, it'll have a decent private toilet. Very reliable and almost never breaks. Cold Plane most of the time and noisy (they will issue ear plugs). Here's a typical C-130 seat (known as a "web" seat).
  • KC-10A Extender: Common to/from overseas.  My favorite! Smooooth ride but (as of 2013) reliability is unfortunately getting near the C-5.  A very nice plane with better than average airline-type seats. Here's typical KC-10 seatThe KC-10 has airline seats. With out seat kits it can hold up to 14. With seat kits you are looking around 75.
  • KC-135 Stratotanker: Common to/from overseas.  Nice plane with different seat configurations. On the KCs (tankers) you may get to watch the in flight refueling if they have one (great experience for the kids!). The "A" model is loud, pretty much always sidewall seats and a fairly reliable aircraft. Dress in layers (good advice for most flights but especially true on this one as your head area can be roasting hot and your feet area freezing (literally) cold!). Here's a view of KC-135 seats (web seats).
  • UC-35A: Not common.  Basically an Off-the-shelf (COTS) Cessna Citation 560 used for executive and priority cargo. Here's a UC-35 picture, the UC-35 interior layout and a picture showing the UC-35 seats (Very nice!).

Bottom Line: Except for Patriot Express aircraft and C-5s you can never tell what configuration the seating will be until you actually get on the plane. Which plane is best? The one you can get a seat on (for free)!

Patriot Express Flights or the executive type passenger aircraft are (just like commercial aircraft). Temperatures on military cargo aircraft can vary greatly (especially the KC-135) so it's good advice to layer your clothing to account for cold and hot environments.

Yes, Space-A passengers are allowed to bring firearms. The firearms must be declared and turned over to the Passenger Service Agents as soon as you enter the terminal so that they can be secured until you are selected and checked-in for a flight. All weapons must be transported in a locked case or as checked luggage. No more than 11 pounds of ammo can be transported with the weapon. If you are attempting to travel to a foreign country their laws may prevent you from being able to take weapons into or through the country in which case they will be prohibited on the  flight.  Finally, make sure you are aware of any local state or military installation laws on firearms (and other weapons) BEFORE you travel to the Passenger Terminal.

  • In general, passengers on large aircraft (e.g. C-5, C-17, C-130, KC-10, KC-135 andincluding Patriot Express) are authorized to check two pieces of baggage not to exceed 70 pounds each (140 pounds total) and 62 linear inches (the sum of the length plus the width plus the height). Single items exceeding 70 pounds and/or 62 linear inches will be counted as two pieces and, therefore, fulfill the allowance for a passenger.  Items exceeding 100 pounds and or 80 linear inches shall not be accepted.  EXCEPTIONS:  Large garment bags, golf clubs, surfboards, snow skis, bicycles, fishing equipment, rucksacks, and/or musical instruments.  Snow skis, bicycles, and fishing equipment should be properly packed to avoid injury to baggage handlers or damage to other baggage. Only one of these bags per person shall be the allowed exception. The second bag must still comply with size restrictions and is limited to 70 pounds.
  • Passengers on administrative support airlift (C-12, C-21, UC-35) are limited to 30 pounds TOTAL baggage weight (includes hand-carried luggage) and the allowance for USN' C-40, C-9, C-37 aircraft is usually limited to 2 bags not to exceed 50 lbs. total weight.
  • On other than administrative support airlift (C-12, C-21, UC-35) each passenger is permitted to hand-carry one article (small luggage, garment bags, backpack, etc. no larger than 45 linear inches) and one personal item (cosmetic case, purse, briefcase, small boxes, packages, etc.) for storage in the passenger cabin area. The weight of these items will not be considered as part of the passenger's baggage authorization on larger military aircraft (AFI needs to be clarified on this). In addition, infant car seats and fold up type strollers do not count against the passenger’s normal baggage allowance. All hand-carried baggage will be weighed on all commercial contracted missions (e.g. the Pat-Ex). Families traveling together may pool their baggage.
  • ""Note: on smaller aircraft, baggage bulk versus weight is normally the issue as the luggage compartments are fairly small.""
  • HINT: If you pack under 30 lbs you increase your odds of getting a seat on smaller aircraft.
  • ""Note: On most military cargo flights, "checked" bags are usually strapped down on a couple of pallets in the cargo bay close to where you are sitting but you are not allowed access to your checked bags during flight.""
  • In addition to any prohibited items covered in the AFI, Space-A passengers must adhere to the same security measures used by commercial aircraft. All AMC-owned and operated terminals will comply with the screening changes implemented by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
  • HQ AMC has mandated all E-CIGARETTES to be carried in one’s hand carried luggage on all AMC flights. Transportation of e-cigarettes will not be authorized in your checked baggage.(as of March 2015)
  • You normally won't be able to access your checked bags on a flight even though you can see them strapped down on the flight deck.
  • For a full description of baggage rules, consult Air Mobility Command Instruction 24-101 Vol 14 (Section I "Baggage Services" and Para 68.6 "Hand-Carried Baggage").

Flights typically depart within 2-3 hours after the Roll C all starts but some can depart sooner (tight departure window) or later (maintenence or other delays).

On Patriot Express flights, you'll be served a typical commercial airline meal that is provided free as part of the flight. Alcoholic drinks cost extra. On "normal" military cargo flights, you're normally given the option of purchasing a box lunch for about $4.60 (exact change (cash) is appreciated by the Pax rep although they may accept personal checks or credit cards if the capability exists). The box lunch will usually contain 1-2 sandwiches, a soda, fruit, snack bar and chips (or some combination of all these and more). I used to split a box lunch between two children as there is usually a fair amount of food in one. In addition, there is normally a cooler of water and some small snacks the crew makes available. Wise travelers will be prepared with their own snacks and drinks in case you are not offered the box lunch option or you are rushed on to a flight so be prepared!  On Navy flights plan to bring your own food/snacks as they may not have box lunches available.

As far as infant formula, liquids and food please see the SpaceA.net FAQ on Traveling with Children.

On military (grey tail) aircraft seating is usually as you can find it when boarding the aircraft (some have web seats or palletised normal airline type seats).  On commercial contract missions, AMC's goal  is  for  a  passenger  to  receive  the  seat  they  desire (no guarantees of course) and an aircraft seat map is used to show locations of available seats.  All passengers  regardless of age, traveling on AMC owned or operated airlift will have an assigned Space-A seat.  When the aircraft is configured with business or first class seats, priority is given to special  category  (Wounded  passengers  upon  request,  Medal  of  Honor  holders,  Blue Barks, Coin Assist, Next Of Kin of Very Seriously Ill, and O-6 or civilian equivalent and above)  passengers.  The  first  two  rows  on  commercial  PE  aircraft  (without  business  or first class seating) are used for DV seating to the maximum extent possible. Any remaining seats shall be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis but passenger Service Personnel will normally try to keep families seated together on Patriot Express or other missions that have assigned seating.

Passengers  seated  in  emergency  exit  rows  must have  sufficient  mobility,  strength,  or  dexterity  in  both  arms,  hands,  and  legs  to  reach upward,  sideways,  and  downward  to  open  the  emergency  exit  and  exit  slide-operating mechanisms.

  • If infants (even newborns) don't have a DoD ID Number then they need a Passport. SSN only is no longer accepted (as of Jan 2017)
  • Infant Life Preservers (LPU-6/P): Most aircraft will have a limited number of infant life preservers (commonly known as "infant cots") in case of an in-flight emergency over water. If the infant cot capability is maxed out then any further passengers with infants can't be manifested (get seats) on that flight (doesn't happen often, but it does happen so be prepared). Per regs the LPU-6/P Infant Cot is required for infants under 2 years of age or under 30 lbs.
  • Infant Car Seats: They are not mandatory, however, AMC encourages children be restrained in flight. Passengers may use FAA approved Child Restraint Systems (CRS) intended for use in flight.  Use of a CRS on DOD owned or controlled aircraft is not mandatory; however, the FAA strongly urges use of approved restraint based on the following weight and size for children:
    • Less than 20 pounds:  Use a rear-facing CRS.
    • Between 20-40 pounds:  Use a forward-facing CRS.
    • More than 40 pounds:  Use an airplane seatbelt.
    • A passenger CRS must be government approved and have the following statement attached “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”.  See Para 68.8.5 of AMCI24-101V14 for further details.
  • Most travelers will find a car seat useful especially with the web seating on some cargo flights. In addition, if you need to rent a car to get to/from your Space-A departure/arrival points a child seat may be needed to comply with local laws.
  • NOTE:  A CRS, Strollers, Car Seats can be checked as part of your baggage or gate-checked depending on the mission and neither count against the passenger’s normal baggage allowance.
  • Infant Milk, Juice: TSA rules have been relaxed for breast milk, formula and juices - volumes in excess of the standard 3 ounces for liquids need to be declared before the security checkpoint. See this TSA page for info. Juices and water are normally available on AMC aircraft so powder formula is allowed and recommended.
  • Meals and Food:  If ordering a meal for the flight ask if Cheese or PBJ sandwiches are options at the check in counter. If you wish to bring your own food snacks this is fine.
  • Documentation:  If traveling without sponsor then each child (regardless of age) needs to be included on the dependent travel memo.  Also, children age 10 and over are required to have an ID card for Space-A travel.
  • Clothing:  Some aircraft types can be extremely cold during flight so please make sure infants/children can be warmly dressed if needed (layer!).  Toddlers (like adults) are required to wear solid shoes, no open toed footwear, sandals, or Crocs are permitted (Patriot Express flights are probably the exception).
  • Assigned Seats:  Every passenger (including children and infants) is required to have an assigned seat so if there is one seat left and you are next in line and there is more than one person traveling then they will skip over you until they get to the next single passenger.

Here's some specific items and suggestions provided by a mom:

Finally, if the child is not accompanied by both parents and you're going overseas, then some folks recommend the adult have a note from the child's other parent acknowledging that they are aware of the trip.  For more details please see the info listed CBP's info for Children Traveling with One Parent.

Each service has its own rules – USAF does not require you to wear the uniform. However, the DoD Reg requires ROTC (and equivalent) cadets to wear their uniform when traveling Space-A. Speaking of uniforms you should be aware of the dress code. Clothing with slogans or containing vulgarity, shorts, revealing clothing, any clothing item that depicts desecration of the flag, tank or tube tops, or other inappropriate clothing will get you turned away from Space A travel. ""LAYER your clothing"", as you never know what the temperature will be on the different aircraft or you could even get diverted (small chance) to a warmer/colder climate than your intended destination. Plan to wear common-sense closed toe footwear (open-toed sandals, flip flops, narrow-heel shoes or high heels are ""NOT ALLOWED" on the cargo aircraft but are allowed on Patriot Express aircraft); some passengers have been denied boarding due to improper footwear. If manifested on a C-5, you may have to climb up a ladder stairs and open-toed shoes or high heels are not safe if you have to exit quickly in an emergency. Did I mention to ""LAYER your clothing"" (don't say I didn't warn you!

In addition, because of the nature of AMC’s cargo missions, chains and tie-down straps that secure the cargo to the pallet and aircraft flooring pose a hazard to your feet, if not protected. As a result, Vibram FiveFinger Footwear are prohibited from being worn on AMC cargo aircraft.

Aircraft used for Patriot Express flights are similar to commercial passenger aircraft with similar noise levels. Military cargo aircraft can have higher noise levels (e.g. C-130). Foam-type Ear plugs are normally distributed by the air crew but it's advisable to bring your own in case. Noise levels on smaller aircraft (e.g. C-21 Learjet Type) should be less than cargo aircraft. Since you may not be able to predict the type of aircraft you’ll get a seat on you may want to be prepared with some ear plugs such as Macks Ear Plugs or Peltor Ear Muffs (suggested by other Space-A travelers with young children).

Good question and the answer (a factor of crew availability and loaded cargo) lies in the USAF Instructions Series 11 (Flying Operations). As an example, a C-5 can accommodate 73 folks in the passenger compartment but some flights may depart with only 19 passengers. Other factors could include type (security) of cargo or availability of adequate safety equipment but the main reasons for seat limitations are listed below for the more common aircraft:

  • Patriot Express Missions:  These are commercial contracted missions and the contract only provides a fixed number of seats even though the aircraft size might accommodate more passengers.
  • C-5: Cargo (not crew) limitation. 20 passengers and above requires an open pallet position for passenger baggage. Typically 73 Seats iempty but if there is a full cargo load thenlimited to 19 seats.
  • C-17: Crew limitation. Above 40 passengers requires an additional crew member. Typically, 53 Seats empty.
  • KC-10: Crew limitation. Above 40 passengers requires an additional crew member.
  • KC-10:  Above 10 passengers requires requires an open pallet position for passenger baggage.
  • KC-135: Crew limitation. Above 10 passengers requires an additional crew member.

Mobility assist equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, etc., don't count against your baggage allowance. However, mobility assist equipment exceeding 100 pounds are not be accepted.

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