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

RNAV Routes have been around since the 1970s

The first RNAV en-route charts were published in 1968 when Narco introduced their CLC-60 RNAV computer to the market. This course-line-computer analyzed information from previously-installed VOR and DME receivers.

Resources: Jeppesen

November 25, 2019 by Kyle Boas

AMA with Cameron Carmichael Alonso

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

He is an Infinite Flight developer working on UI, instruments and backend servers and the creator of LiveFlight. Here is the best questions and answers.

How did you get into programming?

I got into programming out of sheer curiosity, more than anything. I always enjoyed seeing how things worked, and having family work in technology was a big driving factor, as I got to see things being built quite closely. I played around with web dev when I was younger (back in the FrontPage days, that was a while back!), before getting curious about iOS and mobile development when these became more prominent.

I properly learned to program back when I was in high school, I had a free summer and had wanted to try building an app for a while… so I tried some tutorials and played with some libraries to get a feel for things. Eventually that lead to me building LiveFlight, which was a big step to getting me to where I am today.

How long did it take you and the team to create the new UI design?

Laura worked on this mostly. The main difficulty when changing the UI is to keep it familiar enough for existing users, whilst making it work nicely on the wide variety of display sizes we support. I think we iterated for just over a month before finalising.

How do you stay productive and get things done?
Nice question, it’s something we deal with being remote workers, and an area I’m always trying to improve on myself. The main thing is to be passionate about what you do, and then most of the productivity stems from there.

I’m in university at the same time, so my first job is to prioritise tasks from work and uni, and designate time for each at the start of the week. I use Todoist mainly to keep track of what I need to do, as I can assign it by day/time, tag and associate with projects. It’s super useful.

A bit part I found as well is associating different locations with different tasks. For example, I work out of a co-working space, which I associate with all my Infinite Flight work. Sometimes, if I’m not coding and working on some general admin, I find a coffee shop to be useful.

What’s the most challenging thing for you when you’re developing content for Infinite Flight or LiveFlight?

Time management. There is always a lot of things I want to do and not enough time to do them all, sadly.

What are your plans for the future of LiveFlight? Anything you can share already?

Lots planned! I am working right now on a new backend, where I streamline a lot of the “chunky” operations so everything runs quicker. My main frustration is the speed, most of the code was written by a younger, less experienced me. Hoping to get this deployed early next year.

I’d love to rework the web version as it’s a little dated and could do with a lot of optimising. Hoping for early next year too.. but we will see.

I have a few cool things that I started working on for the iOS app, so stay tuned!

What is the hardest part of being a website developer?

Hardest part is probably keeping up with how vast the web platform is. There are always new web libraries, new web browsers to test on… it all moves at a fast rate, which means a lot of testing and evolving as the website iterates.

We’re working on some new features for the Infinite Flight website now which required me to rewrite how we handle URL routing (the thing that translates your URL to a specific page on the website). It’s rewarding as you see results, though.

You have been with Infinite Flight since its earliest days. How did you find them (or, how did they find you)?

I started out as a user! Right when I got the app on iOS, they put a call out for Android beta testers and I got in. I was very active there for a while, we tested cool things like early iterations of multiplayer and the 737, 777…

Laura pinged me with an early version of the API, which I used to learn to work with mapping… which lead to LiveFlight! I was still in high school at the time, but I was able to start working with Infinite Flight as soon as I finished.

Obviously, one of the hardest aspects of building a sim on a mobile platform is lower performance specs compared to other platforms. If any, what are the most frustrating limitations of developing a mobile flight sim?

I think the most frustrating part for me is dealing with changes between iOS/Android, different screen sizes, etc. From a UI perspective, it adds some complexities. But on the bright side, working on mobile means our sim is incredible optimised. It’s quite cool the level at which we achieve this.

How do you feel about the direction IF is going in regards to future plans?

Some things are too early to talk about, but we have some exciting things planned (both in terms of content and features). I feel quite excited since we are in a unique corner of the market, and I really love what we build!

How do you feel about the members of the community who always nag on Infinite Flight before their work is even done or released? There is a line between feedback and just being a simp, so more specifically how do you feel about the latter?

That’s a nice question. It’s a part of what we do (for better or worse), and there is always some useful feedback in a sea of comments.

I think the A350 was a cool experiment to see how early we can show things to people, these things take time and some people won’t understand that without having experience. Some comments are also just not possible to respond to.

That said, I always believe that everyone should have some programming taught in school, as the logical skills you can acquire from it are really useful to understanding how a lot of things work.

What’s your favorite aircraft in the fleet?

I love the 787 something about it is just so cool. Would love to see that have a live cockpit someday.

Favorite staff member?

Hard question, they’re all lovely!

Besides the clock you worked on with the 172, what else have you worked on with the 172 you can share?

I worked on the GPS for the steam gauged C172. It’s a Garmin GNX375, cool piece of tech.

I built a couple of the things in the A350 which hopefully we can share more of soon.

Any plan to bring LiveFlight to Android?

I would love to, but it’s not too high on the priority list right now. It’s a lot to keep maintained being just myself.

I will probably improve the web version as a first step and hopefully can base an Android version off of some of that code.. I can report more early next year.

In what ways has your thinking been challenged or changed by working with Infinite Flight and the community at large?

Working at a global scale has always been something that fascinated me. There’s a bunch of different timezones and different cultures thrown into the mix, so I always find it interesting to see different approaches to problems. Definitely an exciting work culture!

Being able to travel to events and meet people like you has also opened my mind quite a lot, it is cool to hear about how people use Infinite Flight differently in widely varying stages of life.

What’s one thing a co-worker has done that surprised you in terms of how you perceive a task or challenge?

I feel like I need more time to think about a good answer for this one. Most examples I can think of come down to a technical level of how we implement things to be efficient, or working with different skill sets across the company.

What do you expect to get out of/discover in the future with your relationships with friends and co-workers here? Do you find that your personal growth has been augmented by that?

I enjoy the uniqueness of people and it’s cool to hear about how their lives change with Infinite Flight. Being at Cosford this year made me think how cool it is that everyone in that room were there because of our shared love of aviation, and it does help my personal growth.

Is it hard to learn programming and to design and build aircraft?

It has it’s challenges like everything, but it isn’t impossible. Check out something like if you want to try learning! Great skill to have.

Can’t comment for aircraft design though, 3D modelling is one skill I definitely don’t have.

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.

November 24, 2019 by Kyle Boas

Is it the traffic, or you?

Your workload being high can be due to one of two things.

  • The amount of pilots you have to talk to
  • Your technique

Most don’t ever focus on the second point, the technique, and blame a high workload on traffic density. This is not the way to think.

You have to always be improving, as a controller. On tower there are ways that you can help ease your workload.

Get instructions out of the way as soon as you can so you have more time to deal with conflicts.

Purposely waiting will cause you to become over saturated.

November 22, 2019 by Kyle Boas

A350 XWB usage of carbon fiber

The A350 XWB is the first Airbus aircraft with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon fibre reinforced polymer. For example, most of the A350 XWB’s wing is comprised of the lightweight carbon composites, including its upper and lower covers. Measuring 32 metres long by 6 metres wide, these are among the largest single aviation parts ever made from carbon fibre.

Here’s a WIP (Work in Progress) image courtesy of Infinite Flight of the A350-900, that is currently in development.

November 21, 2019 by Kyle Boas

No intersection departures, where do I takeoff from?

If “no intersection departures” are in the ATIS, you need to takeoff at the end of the runway, not from an intersection. Not very close to the end of the runway, the last hold short point of the runway.

No intersection departures is reserved for places like LPMA for example, where the only exit would be blocked if someone were to try to takeoff at that intersection.

References: 6.2.4 of the Infinite Flight ATC Manual

November 19, 2019 by Kyle Boas

How to taxi a 747 in Hong Kong

Here is a video by Captain Joe explaining how an aircraft such as a 747 would taxi at Hong Kong International Airport (VHHH).

The one very interesting part is the handoff to the South Tower controller to cross runway 07R. We actually do things like in Infinite Flight so that we don’t need to communicate back and forth between Ground and Tower to coordinate crossing aircraft with arrivals/departures.

November 18, 2019 by Kyle Boas

What is speed tape?

Speed tape, seen here, is an aluminum pressure-sensitive tape used to do minor repairs. It is used as a temporary repair material until a more permanent repair can be carried out. It has an appearance similar to duct tape, for which it is sometimes mistaken, but its adhesive is capable of sticking on an airplane fuselage or wing at high speeds, hence the name.

The aluminum foil tape can be applied relatively quickly, and is only used for superficial issues.

November 8, 2019 by Kyle Boas A great resource for aircraft information

Often people have a hard time getting the proper aircraft information for the aircraft they fly, especially it’s limitations. is a great quick resource that we endorse. You can check airframe limitations for the cruise ceiling, cruise speed, flap limits, ect.

Some very basic information that will help lead you to get better basic understand of the limitations of the aircraft you plan to fly so you don’t exceed it’s limitations.

November 1, 2019 by Kyle Boas

VFR flight following to frequency change etiquette

You’re flying inbound to your destination and are with approach receiving flight following services while VFR. You are almost within 10nm of the airport and need a frequency change. What do you do?

1. Don’t enter that airport’s airspace. Turn to avoid it.
2. Don’t change frequency to Unicom or Tower on your own. Wait for a break, and then request a frequency change.

Work with the radar controller and lighten their workload.

October 31, 2019 by Kyle Boas