Featured Crew

Operations Controller Colton Newkirk


We’re taking this opportunity to share a story from one of the standout members of our diverse team: Operations Controller, Colton Newkirk!  An experienced aircraft dispatcher and self-described “nerd,” Colton creates smiles within our operation by solving problems with his fun and energetic attitude! Read on to learn about Colton’s story in aviation…

Tell us about your role and what you do at C5. 

“An ‘Operations Controller’ serves as a kind of shift lead among the dispatchers.  Dispatchers share operational control of the flight with each of our Captains. The FAA defines operational control as, ‘the authority to initiate, conduct and terminate a flight.’ It could be as simple as giving advice or helping with a weight-and-balance calculation, or solving more complex problems like building a route, managing performance restrictions, or assisting with air traffic control issues.  

I see myself first and foremost as a dispatcher – The dispatch team works in a secure area that acts as the nerve center of the operation, different names exist for it, but ours is called the ‘SOC’ for Systems Operations Control. It’s a big room with a bunch of screens that track all kinds of data – from weather to flight paths. A lot of critical operational decision-making happens in the SOC and the Dispatchers help facilitate that. We have an FAA certificate just like a mechanic, pilot or air traffic controller would but the cool thing is that there’s no mandatory retirement date like some other roles in aviation so I can literally do this job until I croak!”  

What was it that first interested you in aviation? 

I had set my eyes on a career in aviation pre-pandemic. I didn’t have a professional background in aviation at the time, but my older sister had recently become a Flight Attendant and I was her pass rider for the first couple of years.  I got bitten by the travel bug by taking lots of trips and getting to interact with the crews. It was really fun and I began to realize how cool airplanes are!  Ultimately the life of a crew member wasn’t for me, so I started researching other career paths in aviation.    

At first, I thought Air Traffic Control would be a good fit for me. I’d learned about some of the programs offered at the FAA Air Traffic Control Academy in Oklahoma City and was interested in taking the preliminary tests. But the more I went down the rabbit hole, the more I realized ATC wasn’t for me. I was closer but still hadn’t found my niche yet. I ended up being introduced to one of my sister’s friends who works as a dispatcher at another airline and I got my first look into what being a Dispatcher was really like.   

What’s been your experience working in aviation? 

I really appreciate the people I work with. It sounds corny…but honestly there have been so many times where the phone is ringing, messages are coming in, and things are getting hectic…but you know that the people in the air, at the airport and in the SOC are all working towards a common goal of being safe and efficient and they all have your back.  Aviation is such a team sport! Being an Ops Controller is right for me, and there are so many opportunities in the industry – different strokes for different folks!  I really enjoy being the behind-the-scenes helper and providing fixes to the problems we face every day. It gives me a lot of satisfaction.  

What advice would you give to future aviators? 

“Ask questions. There are some passionate people in this industry, and we love talking about what we do – I was that excited kid asking pilots and flight attendants questions about how things work, and it really sparked my interest. Having passion and drive really goes a long way in this industry.  

If the Dispatcher path appeals to you, I would suggest learning as much information about it as early as possible. Get into weather, learn the phonetic alphabet, study some maps and IFR charts, look at more weather…and start using the 24-hour clock! Lots of people can learn this job and get on this career path – but it takes a special kind of nerd to enjoy it!”