Getting to Know Josh O’Donnell, New York Center Air Traffic Controller

From time to time I like to use ReviewBeforeFlight to mention great people and share their stories… In this edition of “Let’s Get to Know…” we meet Josh O’Donnell. Josh has a very interesting story intertwined in aviation, and now he is a new controller with New York Center. In early August Josh graduated first in his class from the air traffic control academy in Oklahoma City, an incredible accomplishment!

I first got to know Josh when he was a student pilot at KING Aviation-Mansfield. He was (self admittedly) an average student in high school, but as a member of the private pilot ground school I taught at KING, you could tell he had a passion for aviation. Consistently, throughout the course he was ahead of the pack at grasping topics and was able to help those around him in the class.


Josh pictured here on September 16th, 2011 after earning his Private Pilot Certificate with KING Aviation-Mansfield!


Josh earned his private pilot certificate in his late teenage years and began working at KING as a line representative. Consistently over the years while working at KING Josh went above and beyond to get to know the based pilots and customers and learn from their stories.

Eventually, while studying aviation management at Bridgewater State University, where I again had the pleasure of teaching Josh in the Aviation Marketing Management course there, he took a job working for Cape Air Airlines. First, Josh worked at Boston Logan International Airport with Cape Air, working the ramp and then eventually in the crew scheduling office at Cape Air’s Hyannis Airport headquarters.

When the FAA opened up their “off the street” hiring bid for Air Traffic Controllers, Josh left Cape Air and Bridgewater to pursue an interest he had had since high school, being an air traffic controller. After making it through the screening process in early April (2015), Josh reported to the controller academy in Oklahoma City.

Josh was part of an 18-member class, as is every academy class. While studying at the academy Josh lived in a community with many of his classmates and this would prove to be very important later on during the academy. The first 5 weeks of the program were based on basic private pilot type knowledge about airplanes and weather. Josh explained to me that he did very well with this portion of the course.

Josh's class in Oklahoma!

Josh’s class in Oklahoma! You’ll notice his hair is shorter, but he has added a solid beard to his look these days…


There are generally three types of academy course members:

  1. Students who have no aviation knowledge and experience.
  2. Students who have some knowledge as pilots or having worked in aviation.
  3. Students are students who graduated from a CTI college program in air traffic control.

Josh explained that his course was made up of students from each of these three backgrounds and the washouts (5 of the 18 in Josh’s class) came from each of the groups. Said a different way, there was no correlation to the background of the students that commonly washed-out.

After completing the first five weeks, the basic portion of the training, which students from college CTI programs can actually skip as a result of their college experience, the course moves on to more advanced air traffic concepts. Students are randomly selected as either center/approach controllers or tower controllers. Josh was selected to be a center controller and he truly excelled in the program.

When I asked Josh what he liked the most about the program he said it was his classmates. Living close by made it very easy to study together, which Josh credits a lot of his success with the academy to. He said that he excelled as a direct result of the passion of his instructors and the well planned syllabi of the courses.

Josh is very excited to have just recently started on with New York Center and said that his location training will last a couple of years, first getting used to the local area and then with a supervisor observing. As the first in his academy class Josh had his pick of assignment locations and New York was attractive for a couple of reasons. First, it is close by to where he is from in southeastern Massachusetts. Second, it is the biggest and busiest of the control centers and he was up for the challenge! So next time you’re flying around New York, talking to the Center you may be talking with Josh! Keep your ears open on the frequency for the new kid from New England on the scopes!

-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9


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