President Ram Nath Kovind today inaugurated the newly-built airport at Shirdi in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district. Airport sources said the president’s aircraft touched down from New Delhi at the Shirdi airport at 10.30 am. Kovind dedicated the Shirdi airport to the people. Commercial flight operations are scheduled to commence later today with a flight to Mumbai being operated by Alliance Air, the sources said.
The airport secured the aerodrome licence from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for commercial operations last month. Located at 238 km from Mumbai, the country’s financial hub, Shirdi has the famous shrine of Sai Baba and is one of the prominent pilgrimage centres in the country. According to an estimate, about 60,000 pilgrims visit Shirdi everyday, out of which the airport authorities plan to tap at least 10-12 per cent. This is the centenary year of the death of Sai Baba.
The aerodrome is owned and developed by Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to develop airports in the state. The trials of flights from the airport had been conducted recently. Constructed at an investment of around Rs 350 crore, including Rs 50 crore from the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust, the airport, with a 2,500 m-long runway, is capable of handling single narrow-body aircraft, such as Airbus A320 and Boeing 737s. The 2,750 sqm terminal building has been designed to handle a total of 300 passengers, including the arriving ones. Once the new airport operations start, the travel time to Shirdi from Mumbai is expected to reduce to 40 minutes as against five hours by road at present.