Checking in
Senior Airman Kenneth Kelley checks in passenger Susan Knowles who is “catching a hop” heading from Tinker to Spokane, Wash., for a family emergency. (Air Force photo/Margo Wright)
Tinker International: Space-A travel made possible by LRS team

by Brandice Armstrong
Tinker Public Affairs

10/2/2008 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.,  -- Tucked away in Bldg. 268, the "Space Available" passenger terminal is one of Tinker's most under-utilized resources.

Servicing all branches of the military, Reserve, Guard and retirees with their dependents, "Space-A" flies passengers for virtually no cost. Passengers may be subjected to taxes and like expenses.

"It is available, under-used and one of the many benefits the Air Force offers," said Senior Airman Stephanie Harrison, 72nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Passenger Service agent.

Space-A passengers fly on KC-135 Stratotankers that are en-route to another destination. Stopping at Tinker, a KC-135 will pick up passengers if there is extra room. Yet, the seat is only good for a one-way trip.

On average, about 20 passengers, half of which are repeat customers, fly Space-A on a weekly basis. Summertime, when kids are out of school, is typically the busiest season for the terminal. Airman Harrison said while Space-A flights travel no-where on a regular basis, popular destinations tend to include Hawaii, Alaska, Florida and Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

Potential passengers are encouraged to sign up for an out-going flight on Mondays, when flights are announced. They are also encouraged to check the flight status regularly as flights may change on a moments' notice and without warning.

On the day of the flight, passengers are advised to arrive two to three hours before their scheduled departure time. They are subject to the same security and search procedures as if they were flying on a traditional commercial airline.

Susan Knowles, retired Army, flew her first Space-A flight Sept. 19 to Spokane, Wash., to care for her dying mother. Although her final destination was Moses Lake, Wash., approximately 100 miles from Spokane, she said she opted for Space-A because of the price.

"It was almost $2,000 the last time I went up there for two weeks," Mrs. Knowles said of her drive with husband, Duane, roughly six weeks ago. "That depleted us."

Though he wasn't flying with her, Mr. Knowles, also retired Army, said another benefit to the flight was the travel time.

"It gets there a lot quicker," Mr. Knowles said. "If she were to go by commercial plane it's a six-hour flight. Going this way, it's about a three-hour flight."

Before takeoff, passengers are briefed on safety procedures by the aircraft's boom operator.

Passengers are encouraged to pack light as a later flight might be re-routed or canceled. But, each passenger is allowed two pieces of luggage, weighing up to a total of 120 pounds. Luggage must be no more than 62 linear inches and one bag can weigh as much as 70 pounds. Carry-on bags must not weigh more than 40 pounds and can measure up to 42 linear inches, Airman Harrison said.

Travelers are also required to arrive sober and dressed neatly. Passengers wearing cutoff shorts, ripped jeans or open-toe shoes will not be allowed to board the aircraft.

"We usually have two to three Space-A flights a week and in the three years I've been here, I've only seen people turned away twice," Airman Harrison said, "so, you have pretty good odds if you show up."