October 2021 Last month the City of Carmel and Republic Airways announced plans to construct a new aviation campus for Republic and relocate its regional headquarters and crew training facility to Carmel—specifically, along the Meridian (U.S. 31) Corporate Corridor. We met with Carmel resident Matt Koscal, Republic Airways chief administrative officer, who graciously shared details of the project and his thoughts on the status of the aviation industry with us. According to Koscal, the Republic campus will include a high-tech training facility for its pilots, flight crews, technicians and other employees of the airline. Currently, Republic is operating its Leadership In Flight Training (LIFT) Academy—a commercial aviation pilot and maintenance technician training school—near the Indianapolis International Airport. Republic will relocate its training academy to its Carmel campus, where it will showcase its state-of-the-art technologies that combine flight, flight simulator, online and in-classroom training. Additionally, this campus will consolidate its out-of-state training facilities into Carmel, Indiana. A Brief History of Republic Airways Republic Airways was founded in 1974 and is one of the largest regional airlines in the U.S. Republic operates a fleet of more than 220 Embraer 170/175 aircraft and offers scheduled passenger service with daily flights to 100 cities in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and Central America. The airline provides fixed-fee flights operated under its codeshare partners’ brands: American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express. The airline employs over 6,000 aviation professionals. The Scope of the Project The 105,000-square-foot training facility will be three stories tall and visible to travelers on nearby U.S. 31, providing passersby with a unique view of pilot-training simulators through large bay windows that will face the highway. Within the development, an “eagles nest” viewing deck will allow visitors, school students and other aviation partners a unique view of the excitement of aviation. The training facility will include 20 classrooms, 94 workstations, two cabin trainers and eight flight simulators. After the corporate headquarters is constructed, four more classrooms will be added along with two more flight simulators. The hotel adjacent to the training center will be expanded to 274 rooms and used exclusively as accommodations for trainees, visiting instructors, business partners and colleagues traveling to the aviation campus. Mayor Brainard shared that discussions are underway on providing transportation to and from Republic’s campus so that trainees and employees of Republic can experience all that Carmel has to offer while they are staying on campus. “These folks will be here for several weeks and will be visiting Carmel from all over North America,” Brainard said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to introduce them to Carmel, and it will help our restaurants, stores and other small businesses. And hopefully, some of the pilots who have the option to live anywhere near an airport will choose to move to Carmel.” The project will bring approximately 1,900 new jobs—initially—to Carmel with estimated annual wages of $150 million. Why Carmel, Indiana? “This was a competitive process that we started at the end of 2018,” Koscal said. “Our leaders, whether it be Mayor Brainard or Gov. Holcomb, they are forward thinking and are visionary. They understand what it takes to compete and put Indiana on the map. It’s not just about having businesses, but it’s also about having the infrastructure in cities like Carmel, which attract young, up-and-coming professionals that are competing in a very competitive work environment. They want to land in a community that has good schools, low tax bases, and a community where they can get exposed to other cultures, other disciplines and the arts.” Koscal continued, “You’ll find most regional airlines with some exceptions are usually based in smaller cities that feed the hub cities. So, having our base headquarters outside of the major hubs actually makes greater sense for us. Our roots go back a long way in Indiana, and though we did look at other states and cities to expand our LIFT Academy, we saw the opportunity to marry up a new corporate campus and LIFT Academy here in Carmel.” Expanding Aviation Outreach Opportunities Koscal explained that historically, the aviation industry lacks diversity and that the pilot path was predominantly Caucasian and male. “We haven’t done a good job in aviation going out to communities and introducing underrepresented populations of color, women and economically disadvantaged populations to the passion of aviation,” Koscal expressed. “So, if we’re serious about attracting a more diverse population moving forward into aviation, we think it’s critical to have a place that’s inviting and will help introduce individuals to the joys of aviation. And this campus will help us do that in addition to the efficiencies that it will bring to our operation.” Brainard added, “The Republic campus is going to provide an opportunity for the students in the Carmel school system and throughout Central Indiana to learn about aviation careers, the industry and how to fly planes.” The State of Aviation Amid a Global Pandemic For those who may have reservations about flying, we asked Koscal, in his perspective, what the water temperature is like with regards to the current demand for domestic air travel. “I think it’s important to note that for the small number of things that go wrong in the system that moves millions of people a day—at peak travel—our crews do an amazing job, and I have to applaud them. They’re dealing with really difficult times. And we’re dealing with a population that has been through a lot—emotionally—for nearly two years. It’s a difficult environment to work in every day, and I applaud our in-flight crews who make sure that they take care of our customers and are ensuring their safety each and every single day and work to deescalate a situation so that our customers feel confident about flying with us and have a good travel experience.” As far as the industry seeing prepandemic numbers of flights both domestic and international, Koscal projected that it will take a couple of years to see numbers back to 2019 levels. “Domestic is back to prepandemic levels in many markets,” Koscal said. “We saw a surge of leisure travel this summer, and I think we’ll see additional surges in travel through the holidays and as we get into spring break . We’ll begin to see some recovery of the business traveler and the international traveler as we see markets open up, but it is probably a couple of years before we’re fully back into 2019 demand levels.” To learn more about Republic Airways, visit rjet.com.