Republic Airways’ new campus takes Indiana’s largest airline to new heights
Spend a few hours with the team at Republic Airways, one of the largest regional airlines in the world, at its new Aviation Campus in Carmel and you can’t help but learn a few things about the company and the industry. Of course, it’s an airline; that’s spelled out right there in its name. But Republic Airways is an Indiana tech company because of its extensive development and use of technology.
Nirav Shah, Republic’s Chief Information Officer, and his IT colleagues strive to make sure that each Republic Associate has the right information at the right time and on the right platform.
That’s true whether it’s a dispatch associate performing flight planning and management; a technician maintaining an aircraft; or pilots and flight attendants keeping passengers safe at 30,000 feet. Every job at the airline rises or falls on the strength and reliability of its information and on how seamlessly that information transitions from one group to another. And that means Republic is at the forefront of developing digital innovation that starts in Indiana and extends to the world.
“When you think about all the factors that go into getting even a single flight in the air, you quickly realize that airlines are enormous creators – and consumers – of information,” Shah said. “Safety at Republic Airways is more than a goal or a metric that is benchmarked; safety is a core value of our Company’s almost 50-year legacy.”
The disparate challenges of a single flight are enormous.
Shah explains: “We need a reliable and robust information environment that integrates staffing and crew scheduling. We need an environment that integrates training, company procedures, manufacturers’ standards, regulatory requirements, customer and consumer expectations, aircraft performance, just-in-time provisioning of critical factors like catering, fuel, ground handling, parts availability, weather, air traffic control, local airport information and another dozen variables into a coherent, consistent, timely view of what’s happened, how we’re doing right now and what’s coming at us,” he added.
The size and complexity of the challenges help explain why Shah is so excited about the airline’s new Aviation Campus coming to life in phases in Carmel. Construction started in fall 2021 and is expected to continue until summer 2025. By the end of the project, the airline’s corporate headquarters, systems operation control and training department will all be housed in the same location for the first time in Republic’s near 50-year history.
The first step in the project – standing up the new Training Center – was completed in February 2023, followed shortly after by the opening of a new, 276-room hotel dedicated to the exclusive use of Republic Associates. In a nod to the airline’s call sign, the hotel is named “the Brickyard.
The Training Center uses state-of-the-art flight simulation technology, including full-motion and motionless trainers as well as cutting-edge, in-person instructional classrooms and virtual training classrooms. The facility’s high-tech audio and visual capabilities gives Republic’s all in-house instructors the ability to tailor their curriculum to each course in ways that were previously technically infeasible.
The Center boasts a multi-media auditorium, 18 virtual and on-site classrooms, modern workstations, a full-featured cabin trainer for flight attendant training, eight static flight simulators and eight full-motion flight simulators. Technology is built into the Training Center from the ground up and includes wired and wireless core network infrastructure, local-area and wide-area networking, information and data security, audio visual, digital signage and scheduling and security systems.
The Brickyard Hotel would be right at home in any high-end hotel guide, but its accommodations are not available to the general public. Instead, the corporate hotel was specifically designed to give Republic associates, who are in town for training, a pleasant, close-by place to enjoy a meal, socialize, study and relax. It features a high-end exercise room, a recreation room, and a campus courtyard with a massive 16’x24’ video wall that will display entertainment, sports and any sort of presentations to intentionally bring communities together.
One feature not found in most luxury hotels: a full-service uniform store where pilots, flight attendants and maintenance technician associates are fitted for company uniforms.
“There are enormous advantages in bringing all of our training in one central location and, more broadly, in creating a venue where our associates can interact with one another,” Shah said. “It is forward-thinking, makes us smarter, more integrated and it provides a center of gravity for our culture.
Republic’s IT department – which includes three IBJ and TechPoint Tech 25 winners over the last four years – has been and continues to be deeply involved in the design, integration and project management of the corporation’s Aviation Campus. Jim Widmann, one of the project managers in the department’s Project Management Office led that work for the Training Center and Brickyard Hotel. He will continue this work for Phase II’s technology design and integration for the corporate headquarters building.
“By integrating IT from the beginning in the ideation, planning and construction phases, we were able to fully understand what the company needs, and equipping our associates with the tools to deliver on those needs in a way that is cost-effective from end to end, that is scalable, flexible and upgradeable,” Widmann said.
He admitted that it wasn’t always easy to deliver on those objectives.
“Throughout Phase I, we really had to be agile and nimble,” he said. “COVID, for example, created many challenges during the design and integration stages. We had to be creative to deal with the supply chain disruptions and the longer-than-expected lead times at every step: sourcing, obtaining and delivering components, services and materials. I’m really proud of how my IT colleagues – and our counterparts throughout the company — stepped up to these challenges. We’ll be reaping the benefits of that hard, smart work for years.”
With Phase I of the project substantially complete, the team is already working on Phase II, a multi-level parking garage and a new corporate headquarters to replace its current leased space in northern Indianapolis. As with Phase I, the IT Team will play an integral role in equipping the new headquarters.
The Republic team is also looking forward to getting to know its new neighbors and neighborhood. The fully operational Training Center will be the workspace for full-time personnel as well as hundreds of various associates each month for training and meetings.
Widmann can talk expansively about virtually every square inch of the facility, but both his and Shah’s eyes light up the brightest when talking about the Training Center’s Exploration Room.
The room is steps away from the front door of the Training Center and is a showcase for Republic Airways and the aviation industry in general. Visitors can use virtual reality (VR) to explore a guided tour of Republic’s E-175 aircraft inside and out, try their hand at flight simulators built by the IT department and browse multimedia content through audio/video touch kiosks.
Widmann recalled watching a pilot, on site for his recurrent training, stroll into the room out of curiosity and then stay to strike up a conversation with a middle-schooler who was touring the facility. Turns out the young man had just come back from a baseball tournament in St. Louis and wanted to use one of the simulators to make a return trip.
Upon leaving, the student said he wanted to become a pilot, which is exactly what Republic wants to hear. And, if piloting isn’t everyone’s desire, the room’s VR stations introduces young people to other aviation career paths. In the near future the airline plans to supplement that content with videos showing “day-in-the-life” looks at other Republic positions.
“If we have just one kid come through this room who becomes a Republic pilot or a flight dispatcher or a mechanic or a flight attendant, then the cost of this room and everything in it will be worth it,” Shah said. “Middle school is when they start building their career aspirations, so being able to experience flying, or to see other kinds of careers we offer is really helpful.”
The facility’s main objective is to serve corporate needs, but Shah said the company also wants to ensure Indiana knows the company values its Hoosier roots.
“We put our people first,” he said. “We hope that this new campus showcases our deep commitment not just to our people, but to the entire state of Indiana.”