Todd Cox dreamed of being a pilot when he was a teen-ager growing up in Minnesota. He settled for becoming an air traffic controller, training he received during his service in the Navy.
"It was the next best thing," said Cox, who joined the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority as director of general aviation in September.
"I got to see something different every day," he said of his 26 years as an air traffic controller. "I enjoyed seeing how people from all different walks of life work together. When you see an aircraft lift off the ground, or catapult off an aircraft carrier, all the people who make that happen and the technology, that's what interested me. Aviation is not just a job to me. It's a love."
He has a collection of books on aviation that date back to the 1930s, and he builds and maintains model airplanes. He also flies radio controlled planes, and satisfies his piloting thirst by participating in an online flight simulator community. In this virtual world, some people sit at their computers monitoring radar scopes and directing "aircraft" and others sit in front of their computers "flying" planes.
"The flight simulation programs have grown up over the years to where there are all these programs that allow people to participate online in a way that replicates the real world," Cox said. "The hobby is so big you have people who create their own simulator structures in their garages or houses with full enclosures. It's pretty huge. It's a way to connect with other people in aviation and also really enjoy aviation from a different perspective."
Cox is a graduate of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and also earned a Master's of Commercial Aviation from Delta State University. Before joining the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, Cox, he served as airport manager at the St. Lucie County International Airport in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Cox is an avid football fan. He also enjoys golfing and fishing. And he loves discovering new restaurants.
"When I was in the military traveling to so many different countries I got into eating all different kinds of foods," he said. "I still like that."