President R. N. Kovind will throw open Maharashtra’s newest airport – at Shirdi, the famous temple town housing the ‘samadhi’ of the revered Sai Baba – in the Ahmednagar district on Sunday….reports Asian Lite News
The President will inaugurate the airport in a function scheduled at 10 a.m. on October 1 in the presence of top dignitaries including Governor C. V. Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other top Central and state government officials.
This will be Kovind’s second visit to the state within 10 days after his maiden trip to Nagpur on September 22.
The development follows the successful trial of an Alliance Air ATR-72-600 aircraft’s Mumbai-Shirdi flight completed in 45 minutes on Tuesday evening, said Maharashtra Airport Development Corporation Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Suresh Kakani.
“There may be another trial flight after the inauguration and we expect regular commercial operations to be launched by first week of October,” Kakani said.
Besides Air India subsidiary Alliance Air, Hyderabad-based TruJet is planning flights to Shirdi, while IndiGo has applied for permission to operate on the Shirdi sector which is awaited shortly, he added.
According to Kakani, initially, there will be six return flights daily to Shirdi, including four from Mumbai and one each from New Delhi and Hyderabad and more flights would be added in phases.
On September 21, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granted an aerodrome licence to the Shirdi Airport for daytime flight operations.
The development would be a boon to Shirdi, which is launching from next month a year-long Shri Sai Baba Samadhi Centenary celebrations of the saint revered by all communities.
With a 2,500-metre runway, the airport can handle narrow-body aircraft like Airbus A-320 and Boeing B-737s, among others, on an area of around 400 acres.
A swank new 3,000 square metre terminal building, an Air traffic control (ATC) tower and all other communication and infrastructure are already in place, with the flights likely to start shortly.
The airport has been developed by the Maharashtra Airport Development Company in Rahata sub-district, around 240 kms north-west of Mumbai, at a cost of nearly Rs 350 crore.
With this, the travel time between Mumbai and Shirdi, which takes around five hours, would be slashed to 45 minutes.
A portion of the investment for the airport, nearly Rs 50 crore, was contributed by the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SSST), which is among the richest religious bodies in the country.
On an average, around 25,000 pilgrims visit the Shirdi temple daily which more than triples on weekends and special occasions.
During the centenary year celebrations, the Trust expects over 10 million people to visit Shirdi for which elaborate arrangements have been made.