Flying Space-A from Joint Base Lewis-McChord: 10 Things You Need to Know

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A US flag with snow-capped Mt. Rainier in the background.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JB Lewis-McChord or JBLM) in Washington State is one of the best places on the West Coast to catch a military Space-A flight. JBLM has regular missions to locations all over the country and to several destinations outside the continental U.S. (OCONUS).

Also, while many Space-A passengers vie for the Patriot Express missions out of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) terminal at Seattle airport, competition for flights at JBLM is often light.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the essentials of flying Space-A from JBLM, including the military bases with regular flights to and from JBLM, lodging and ground transportation options, plus where to eat and where to park.

If you are new to Space-A flying, read this Quickstart Guide to Military Space A Flights first to get a basic understanding of how the process works.

1. The most frequent flights from JB Lewis-McChord are to locations on the West and East Coast and Alaska.

JBLM serves as a hub for Space-A travel, with missions to a variety of destinations. Some of the military bases with regular missions to and from JBLM include Travis AFB (California), JB Elmendorf-Richardson (Alaska), JB Andrews (Maryland), JB Charleston (South Carolina), JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (New Jersey), and Dover AFB (Delaware).

JBLM also has occasional flights to and from JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam (Hawaii), Ramstein AB (Germany) and Yokota AB (Japan).

You may see regular flights to JBLM from NAVSTA Rota (Spain), often with stops along the way, but flights in the reverse direction are less common.

Visit the JB Lewis-McChord page on the AMC website to view their current flight schedules.

Note that most missions via JBLM are on cargo aircraft, so you should dress and pack accordingly

2. Joint Base Lewis-McChord has multiple base lodging facilities.

All facilities are privately owned and operated by IHG Army Hotels. Contact the facilities directly for current rates and reservation policies.

Candlewood Suites is on the McChord Field side of the base and is about 2.6 miles from the passenger terminal. It is a new building. For those who remember the old Evergreen Inn, that facility is no longer in use.

IHG Army Hotels Buildings 600 Series are what used to be the Temporary Lodging Facilities (TLFs) run by the Evergreen Inn. They have been fully renovated and are approximately 2 miles from the passenger terminal. Check-in for these rooms is at the Candlewood Suites.

Holiday Inn Express Rainier Inn & Rainier Complex is on the Fort Lewis side of the base and is about 9.5 miles from the terminal.

IHG Army Hotels Bronson Hall is in a historic building that was formerly the visiting officer quarters on Fort Lewis, about a mile from the Rainier Inn. Check-in for Bronson Hall is at the Rainier Inn.

The base lodging facilities have a shuttle service daily between 0800 and 1800.

* * * Get the full scoop on using Space-A flights and lodging with our free 40+ page Guide to Military Space-A Travel. * * *

3. The closest off-base hotels to the JBLM passenger terminal are in Lakewood, near the McChord Field Visitor Center.

Among the closest options are:

If you search on near the McChord Field Visitor Center, you will also see options other than hotels, such as privately-owned rentals. Some of these options may be a better value.

4. Long term parking is available at the McChord passenger terminal for up to 60 days.

If you are selected for a flight, request a pass from passenger terminal staff and display it in your windshield. It authorizes you to park in the passenger terminal parking lot for up to 60 days.

As stated on the JB Lewis-McChord AMC page, if you leave your vehicle for more than 60 days, you risk citation, towing, and a 30-day ban from parking in the lot.

5. The only taxi or ride share drivers who can enter the base freely are adult, authorized Department of Defense ID card holders.

If your driver is not an ID card holder, and you are in the vehicle, they can enter any gate, but they need proper identification, and the guard may run a background check.

If you are not in the vehicle (e.g., you order a taxi or Uber from the passenger terminal) the driver must enter JBLM at one of the two base Visitor Centers and the gate guard will call you to complete the pass issuance process.

Visit the JBLM Visitor Information page for more details.

6. JBLM has an on-demand base shuttle system.

The free shuttle is called GO Transit and operates daily between 0800 and 1800. The shuttle has designated stops (including the passenger terminal), but you must contact them to request pickup.

Visit the GO Transit web page for more details. To view the detailed shuttle routes, download the app using the link on their web page and create an account.

7. Seattle International Airport is the closest civilian airport to JBLM.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) is approximately 35 miles north of JBLM. Depending on traffic, the drive can take 45 – 90 minutes. Here are your transportation options to and from SeaTac:

Fast Frye’s JBLM is a rideshare company, and drivers are ID cardholders. They offer a fixed rate between JBLM and the airport (plus you can use them for transportation around the base as well).

Shuttles: As of this writing, there is no airport shuttle service between JBLM and SeaTac. Kitsap Airporter will take you between SeaTac and a location in the city of Tacoma, but it’s still about 11 miles from the passenger terminal.

Taxi/Uber/Lyft: See #5 above RE: drivers with base access, and remember to allow extra time when you are calling a ride to pick you up on base.

Combination Bus/Train/Taxi/Rideshare: Use Google Maps or Rome2Rio to see how you can piece together other public transportation options. Depending on how many travelers are in your group, you may save money compared to the other options, but the trip will likely take you at least 2 hours.

8. The next closest military passenger terminal is at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The AMC terminal at Seattle-Tacoma International airport operates Patriot Express missions to Guam, Japan, and Korea. They do not have military flights to or from any other locations.

This article has more information about flying Space-A from SeaTac.

9. JBLM has one car rental facility on base.

There is an Enterprise rental car on the Fort Lewis side of the base (about 9 miles from the passenger terminal). They may be able to pick you up at the passenger terminal. Also, as of this writing, they are in the process of arranging a key drop-box at the terminal.

If you reserve a car and expect to arrive outside of their business hours, call them to ask if they can work with you to get you your vehicle after hours.

10. The USO is the closest food option to the passenger terminal.

The passenger terminal does not have any eateries, but the large USO next door offers plenty of snacks and sometimes hot food.

The McChord commissary and Exchange mall are about 2.5 miles from the terminal.

Retirees can eat at all dining facilities on JB Lewis-McChord. The closest to the passenger terminal is the Olympic Dining Facility, about 2.2 miles away.

Ready to Fly Space-A from JBLM?

To start planning your Space-A adventure, follow the flight schedules on the JB Lewis-McChord AMC web page. If you’ve never “taken a hop,” do your research so you fully understand how Space-A flights work.

And finally, make sure you have the right clothing and gear to fly Space-A on a cargo plane.

Hope to see you on a Space-A flight one of these days!

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4 thoughts on “Flying Space-A from Joint Base Lewis-McChord: 10 Things You Need to Know”

  1. Stephanie,
    First, thank you for your insights on Space-A.

    I know the Patriot Express is a “passenger plane” with regular passenger seats. What kind of seating can one expect on long haul Space A flights that are not the Patriot Express. For instance, on a flight from Charleston to Germany would one expect jump seats along the side of the plane or do some “load on” passenger seat units onto the plane? Is there a way to determine this in advance? If you have already answered this question in another post or blog could you direct me to the post?

  2. Thank you for your blog-you’ve reminded me of some benefits that I’ve been leaving on the table for the last few years. Unfortunately, going over the material I have been able to find indicate that the first leg I would need isn’t available; although there are flights into Christchurch New Zealand, I can’t find the reverse route back to CONUS. Does that actually not exist, or is my searching not up to speed?

    • Flying Space-A back from Christchurch would be challenging. It’s a commercial airport, so you might be able to coordinate with the crew for the return if you manage to fly Space-A TO Christchurch, but they do not have a page or contact info on the AMC website. Your best bet is probably commercial back to Asia and Space-A from Japan or Korea.

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