Surprisingly, when he joined the airline in 2004, Menish had no real background in aviation or management. He did have a father who was a passionate professional pilot and the exciting childhood memory of being ferried about in a prop plane.
Today, Menish heads a team that manages three quarters of a million square feet of space, in about 16 locations spread across the country. Depending on the setting, his team is responsible for everything from preventative maintenance and janitorial service to facilities construction and leasing.
Approximately two-thirds of the 6,000 Republic associates (many of them pilots and flight attendants) need a place to unwind, train, and connect to corporate. Yet few industries have such a mobile workforce who spend so little time on the ground. That means Menish’s facilities solutions must make a positive impression—and fast.
The hectic pace of the airline industry affects everything under the director’s jurisdiction. “If you think about it,” he says, “there is never a time that a plane is not landing, taking off, or being repaired. Our business runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So, our biggest challenge is that any major construction project has to be done while the organization is in motion.”
Some of the recent construction projects Menish has overseen look traditional, like corporate headquarters in Indianapolis; others are aviation-specific and happen on airfields. In many cases, projects for airlines often demand additional regulatory and technological requirements. As in the air, errors on land can be costly, and the ability to foresee problems and create solutions is crucial.
Republic’s Leadership in Flight Training (LIFT) Academy, which opened in 2018, is a perfect example of Menish’s co-ability to conduct moving parts and predict problems. To combat the global pilot shortage, Republic decided to build its own aviation training school to instruct aspiring pilots from ground zero all the way through the qualifications needed for licensing. The unique accelerated learning strategy, housed in an aircraft hangar in Indianapolis, involved complicated, state-of the-art technologies, including real and virtual flight simulations and in-classroom training.
Tasked with a 90-day turnaround, Menish reached out to Capitol Construction, a partner he had admired from previous projects. “There were a lot of hurdles to jump through—and for good reason,” the director says. “You don’t want to impact airport safety.”
But Capitol had the experience to get through the project in record time, in no small part, Menish says, thanks to its prior success in airport permit processing. But it wasn’t easy. “The project manager was taking our calls as early as 5:00 a.m. and as late as midnight!”
Menish is also in charge of corporate real estate, identifying and negotiating solutions around leases, airport rules, insurance, and liability. Republic operates in more than 100 airports, including a few international ones, and runs up to 1,100 flights a day through American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines. As each municipality has its own rules, airlines can’t even think about landing a plane until all terms are clear.
But Menish remains undaunted. “I’ve always prided myself on learning new things and one of the things I’m proudest of is that I’ve built a great team. You could say Republic and I have matured together.”
The pandemic did force Menish and his team to work in different ways. Even though air travel was down during its height, most of Republic’s facilities continued to operate—and train. Addressing infrastructure became paramount. “We had associates coming from all over the country, especially from places where COVID-19 was widespread,” he notes. Changes had to be made to building and office layouts, cleaning, and air filtration. “Our mission was to give everybody the level of comfort they needed to feel safe and empowered.”
While Menish has had supportive mentors, he finds his best management inspiration in the words of Richard Bach, an aviator and the author of the classic ’70s novel, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. “I may be paraphrasing but he said, ‘Don’t argue for your limitations.’ That’s one of the biggest things I try to impart to my team. A lot of people sell themselves short. Instead, I say, let’s talk more about how we are going to do something, versus why we can’t.”
Those words of wisdom fit well with Republic’s mission for continuous improvement. Menish is most excited for the airline’s proposed Center of Excellence, where the company will consolidate its advanced training facilities for pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics into one location. Right now, the flight simulators—big boxes on hydraulic jacks—are spread across the country. The hunt for 80,000 square feet in Indianapolis begins.
“Aviation is one of those industries where you never stop training,” Menish describes. “As we get so few opportunities to get our associates into our facilities, it is sure to have a major impact on our corporate culture.”