Indianapolis International Gets a Move On

Rebecca Douglas
Published in: 

Managing change is rarely easy. It becomes potentially mind-boggling, however, when it involves more than 3,000 employees, 10 major airlines and about 180 daily departures. Such is the case at Indianapolis International Airport.

On Nov. 11, the airport will begin routing evening flights that terminate in Indianapolis to its new 40-gate, 1.2 million-square-foot terminal. The next morning, all departing flights will leave from the new midfield terminal, located in between the airport's two parallel runways. The somewhat gradual transition avoids the heavy nighttime traffic associated with the large FedEx hub located on the south side of the airport. It also eliminates the need to tow aircraft across the field for the first full day of operation from the new terminal.

Indianapolis International

Such small but important details are just two items on a seemingly endless list of logistic considerations. Opening day, for instance, was originally scheduled for Oct. 28, but was changed to Veterans Day shortly after the Airport Authority decided to name the terminal after native son and World War I flying ace H. Weir Cook.

"We started the detailed planning in fall 2006," recalls Richard Potosnak, president of Transportation, Consulting & Management, the airport's project manager. "There are an incredible amount of aspects to consider."

Potosnak's tenure with the transition project dates back to 2002.

Outside Counsel

Officials at Indy learned volumes from executives who personally managed similar transitions at other airports. Directors from Pittsburgh, Ft. Myers, Dallas-Fort Worth and Fort Lauderdale (discussing his experience at Detroit) spent 1½ days helping their Hoosier peers.

"They led us through their experiences, and we had a chance to bounce our ideas off them," Potosnak explains. "There were a lot of lessons learned."

Accommodating passengers who would depart from the old terminal but return to the new terminal prompted plenty of discussion. Indianapolis is consequently providing free 24-hour shuttle service from the new terminal to passengers' cars for two weeks after the grand opening. During the third week (through Dece. 3), customers will receive vouchers for free taxi service to their cars. Passengers departing on or after Nov. 12 will park in the airport's new five-story garage.

"Based on historic data, we'll probably have 8,700 cars left in the old parking lots and after the new terminal opens," says Potosnak. "Within seven days, 90 percent should be picked up; within two weeks, 98 percent should be gone. We expect to have at least a dozen cars no one will claim."

At other airports, low-value commuter cars have simply been abandoned; other vehicles remained unclaimed because their owners died or were otherwise indisposed before their return to the airport.

The Indianapolis team also gleaned information about the physical move - specifically breaking it up into separate phases, clearing out all extra materials in advance and the importance of centrally managing the move.

"You just can't have 12 different movers working for different companies," Potosnak explains. "We hired one moving company (Hogan Moving, for $98,000) and it will handle everything for everyone. They'll control the loading docks at both ends and we'll have one master schedule."

Staging "opening events" well in advance of the first day of operations was another key piece of advice. "You don't need to be dealing with caterers and entertainment at the very end," he agrees.

Indianapolis scheduled its Community Days accordingly - a full month before active service.

"We are opening a new airport at a new address that will be a new experience for Indianapolis," explains Airport Authority president Randall Tobias. "We want to be sure that all our customers know where to find us and know how to use our new facilities when they arrive."

The two-day event drew an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people. A brief ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on Nov. 11, but it's scheduled hours before the first flight is due.

Additional Expertise Drafted

The airport also "tapped the resources" of Sebesta Blomberg. From January 2008 through follow-up after the opening, the consultant will provide more than $1 million of facility transition services in five primary areas: organizational modeling, equipment testing, trials and simulations, training and planning for the physical move.

Based on its organizational modeling, Sebesta recommended significant staffing increases for the new terminal. Percentages varied among departments, with facilities maintenance emerging as the area most in need of additional employees. Overall staffing recommendations are being implemented in phases due to budget constraints.

Facts and Figures


: Transition to New Terminal


Indianapolis International Airport

Project Manager:

Transportation, Consulting &


Transition Consultant:
Sebesta Blomberg

"Our basic metric is based on square footage, but it's modified - sometimes substantially - by a variety of factors," explains Kyle Horsley, manager of transition and technical services for Sebesta.

Based on sheer volume (680,000 square feet at the former terminal vs. 1.2 million at the new) more employees are obviously needed, but it's not directly proportional.

"The old terminal had lots of carpet; the new one has more hard surfaces like terrazzo and tile that require less maintenance," Horsley notes. "We also look at the type of building systems used and consider their complexity."

Testing 1, 2, 3

Another main component of Sebesta Blomberg's services was verifying that the terminal's building systems were fully functional and ensuring employees were properly trained to operate them.

"We test all major systems that impact the traveling public, such as plumbing, baggage systems, electronic displays, signage in the parking lot and much more," explains Horsley, who personally heads the "behavioral testing" aspect.

"Systems can make sense to architects and look good on paper, but until you test them with real people, you just don't know for sure," he stresses.

The Community Days were also viewed as trial runs.

"It was a valuable opportunity to observe thousands of people moving through the airport," Potosnak relates. "We noted how they responded to everything from the interstate exit to the locations of restrooms inside the terminal, and we had plenty of extra personnel on hand to take down their feedback."

Behind-the-scene tours of the airport's new baggage handling system were particularly popular.

Sebesta also performed training sessions for about 3,000 airport employees. Everyone from security guards to airline ticket agents to restaurant and shop employees to baggage handler took one-hour tours. "We wanted to make sure everyone was familiar with the facility before they came to work," he explains. "It not only helps them do their jobs better, it also allows them to be good ambassadors to the traveling public."

"We really stressed the training aspect," adds Potosnak.

Like so many others in the industry, Indy learned a lot from the opening of Terminal 5 at London Heathrow. "You can build a great facility, but if people don't know how to use it, you're not that far ahead."

Counting Down

Large clocks noting the days, hours, minutes and even seconds until the official opening were posted throughout the construction offices and new terminal at Indianapolis International. Here's a partial list of the intermediate steps taken to get there:

2 Years Before Opening

• Airport performed "change assessment," a preliminary inventory of what was going to change and how it would impact operations

• Department heads began meeting every other week to review how the move would affect operations, equipment, contractual agreements, etc.

16 Months Before Opening

• Airport hosted a peer forum with directors from other airports who have managed similar transitions

10 Months Before Opening

• Sebesta Blomberg contracted to provide facility transition services

• Materials that could be moved early are packed for first-phase delivery

8 Months Before Opening

• Representatives from the airlines, air traffic control, rental car agencies and concession companies merged into planning groups; frequency of planning meetings increased to every two weeks

5 Months Before Opening

• Baggage system "substantially complete;" system testing began

3 Months Before Opening

• Results from computer simulations of anticipated airfield flow distributed to airlines

2 Months Before Opening

• Airport sponsored the first of two Clean-Up days. Three commercial-size dumpsters of items that do not need to be moved are discarded from the existing terminal.

• New baggage system passes TSA's tests on first attempt

1 Month Before Opening

• Community Days held; 20,000 to 25,000 people tour new terminal before it officially opens

• PA announcements in existing terminal regarding specific dates/logistics of transition began

• Training tours/training held for 3,000 airport employees

• All personnel and materials not still needed at existing terminal moved to new facility

3 Weeks Before Opening

• Docking of aircraft to jet bridges tested

• Electronic displays activated

• Frequent fliers participated in test runs with mock schedules, baggage claims, etc.

• Simulations run with special needs passengers

2 Weeks Before Opening

• Second pre-move Clean-Up Day held at existing terminal


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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