AMA with Joshua Smithley

This Saturday, we had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with Joshua Smithley in the ATC Education Group Workshop, where our members got a chance to ask him questions.

He is an Infinite Flight ATC (IFATC) Recruiter, Supervisor and Training Team (ITT) Adminstrator. Here is all of the questions and answers.


What’s your favorite thing about being a recruiter?

It’s tough to identify my favorite thing about being a recruiter, but I think it would have to be the opportunity to allow people to experience ATC in their own ways. Being deaf, my chances of becoming a controller are slim, but Infinite Flight granted me the opportunity of being able to pursue this career in a different way. It is in this vein that I enjoy passing this possibility to others.

What’s your favorite thing about being the ITT administrator?

The best part about the whole experience is watching people grow into their own. Every day, I’m constantly seeing new techniques and skillsets being passed back and forth from trainees and trainers alike. A sense of community has formed in there over the last few years; the ITT has proved to me that there is strength and knowledge in numbers.

Why did you go to Purdue?

I initially went to Purdue in order to study for my A&P, but changed majors to aviation management after about a year and a half.

What certificates do you have now?

Even though I am no longer pursuing A&P certification, I do have various nondestructive testing certificates as issued by Purdue’s School of Aviation and Transportation Technology per guidelines set within 14 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations). They include liquid penetrant, magnetic particle, eddy current, and ultrasonic certifications good for between 1-3 years depending on course and conduction requirements.

When did you join Infinite Flight and why did you join the IFATC?

I joined Infinite Flight in late 2014/early 2015 (permanently). My first impression with the app in its early stages included installing it on my iPad Mini, getting bored after the shuttle mission, then deleting the app. After a while, I decided to download it again because a new update had just come out and the rest is history. As for IFATC, a 12 year old by the name of Zachary Tish approached me while I was controlling a random airport in SoCal on the Training Server that Laura [Laban] happened to be at – I think it was KVNY. Anyways, he was impressed enough to the point where he asked if I could open KSJC later that night for a practical test. I was interested in controlling, so I said sure and proceeded to hop into the bathroom at around midnight. Sat down on the crapper and the swarm of pilots came in (more so than I expected). I had to stop the process of going numero dos to focus on managing those people, and eventually the test came to a close at a half hour after midnight. The vote as to whether or not I could get into IFATC was so close between the testers that someone cast a tie-breaking vote in my favor, thus granting me entry. Too bad they doomed themselves to an eternity with me, so the blame is on that guy.

Do you like your home state (Indiana) or will you move to a different place?

Indiana is home, but for a number of personal reasons, I would not be opposed to moving out of the state after I graduate. I’m not a fan of cold weather, so somewhere warmer will do. Colorado or further out west are possible options. Yes, I know the former can be cold, but the policies of that state are pretty favorable to me.

How did you become an IFATC (supervising) supervisor?

Good question! I learned very early on in my tenure with IFATC that people value honesty and reliability. I struggled with those core values at first, but developed them over a long period of time with my mentors helping me along the way. People like Tyler, Jay, Mark, etc all made sure that I was building up towards my full potential and were not afraid to call out the usual B.S. that came with having little personal or emotional responsibility/handling at the time.

Essentially, after all that, I follow two simple rules. One, I don’t lie. As someone who oversees a lot of people, please don’t do that. You make it much harder for yourself in the long run and leads to a breakdown of trust. Two, be dependable. If someone asks me to do something, I do it. If not, I take the initiative and do it anyway. It reduces the workload of other leaders as a whole and lets them know they can trust you when it comes to important/trust-sensitive things. By maintaining those core values over time, my role eventually grew into what it is today (and has expanded into a lot of sub-roles as well).

How many people have you crashed into mountains?

Ooh, quite a few. Mark Denton and Joe Reilly were some. A few older sups too. It used to happen fairly often before I reached god-tier levels of controlling, but I’m good now. It’s pretty interesting being on the other end of the coin and teaching people how not to crash others into mountains, though.

If you could add anything to Infinite Flight, what would it be?

I’m kind of torn between the A220 and more cool ATC stuff like comm features between our controllers. On one hand, I’d be able to fly one of my favorite aircraft, but on the other, I could yell at our controllers to do better and stop whining. I’ll just push for both, I guess.

If you could change one thing about the IFATC, what would it be?

Funnily enough, the one thing I wanted changed just happened via the expansion of our training program onto the forum. It is the culmination of a process that began over six months ago and a LOT of back and forth discussion between myself and the bosses. I couldn’t be more prouder about this, and I hope you all will find it useful too.

What’s your favorite part of Infinite Flight?

This is probably no surprise, but ATC is by far my favorite. Like I said before, the inclusion of this feature within Infinite Flight allows me to indulge within an ATC career in a different way. The relationships I’ve made by pursuing this (friends, business, career opportunities, etc) have all transformed my life in a lot of previously unimaginable ways.

What’s your favorite part of Purdue?

Like any self-respecting avgeek, the airport. We’re constantly having SR20s and the like flying over the main campus area on final approach to Runway 23 if the winds are favorable that day. Our main college complex (Av and Transportation) is also modeled after a terminal building adjacent to the ramp, so it’s cool to hang out in there sometimes.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

It’s tough, but I imagine I’ll have my degree in five years and the beginnings of a career somewhere. I know I’ll remain with Infinite Flight as usual (and perhaps hopefully more someday – who knows?) I don’t have a specific goal otherwise, but am open to a lot of different portions of the aviation industry. Creating a business, working for an airline, trying the ATC process if they somehow allow for my medical, etc, are all possible options.

How quickly were you promoted to the certain positions you are in in the IFATC? i.e. Recruiter, Trainer, Supervisor, etc.

I’ll work backwards for this one. Was promoted to recruiter in February of 2018. Becoming a sup was in February of 2017. Testing (for ATC) was in February of 2016. Apparently, Tyler knows how to romance me, so I’m really happy about that. I wonder what he’ll get me for Valentine’s this coming year.

Is Purdue the best college for an aspiring pilot?

Purdue is an excellent college and offers good value for pilot training. I believe we’re in the sixth or seventh year of a tuition freeze, which is expected to continue for a few years yet. Being “the best” is subjective, but you get just as much quality training for less money than, say, Embry Riddle.

Have you ever used the food delivery robot?

Shhhh. They’re stealing my DoorDash income, but I have gotten out of the car at a few points and taken photos along with other passerby. They’re cute, especially when staring down the Boilermaker train.

Choo choo, mofos.

Hey Josh! What is the highlight of IFATC that you would recommend to newcomers?

I’m tempted to say that the highlight happens to be those weird midnight conversations we get into occasionally, but I would rather say the camaraderie of the team as a whole. It’s difficult to pin things down to something specific, so the experience as a whole is what I would recommend newcomers immersing themselves into. We’re all crazy in our own ways, myself included. I know, I know, I’m awesome, but still.


If you’d like to join in discussions such as this with like-minded people like yourself and experts in the field, to learn and improve, I’d encourage you to sign up for our Workshop. Next guests.

December 8, 2019 by Kyle Boas