President Ramnath Kovind is likely to inaugurate the newly-built Shirdi airport in Ahmednagar district in the state on October 1, which secured the aerodrome licence from the DGCA for commercial operations last week. Located at 238 kms from the country’s financial hub, Mumbai, Shirdi has the famous shrine of Sai Baba and is one of the prominent pilgrimage centres in the country. Significantly, the centenary Sai Baba Samadhi Mahotsav, being organised by the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust, will also kick start from October 1.
Owned and developed by Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to develop airports in the state, the aerodrome is set for a final trial run tomorrow before launching the commercial operations. “We are conducting the final trial run at the Shirdi airport tomorrow with an ATR 72 aircraft. We have invited President Ramnath Kovind to inaugurate the new airport on October 1,” MADC vice-chairperson and managing director Suresh Kakani told PTI here. Kakani said that Alliance Air, which is the regional arm of the national carrier Air India, will operate the inaugural flight on October 1 and it will be a non-scheduled operation. “However, the commercial operations will begin only from October 2,” he said.
As of now, Alliance Air and Hyderabad-based regional carrier TruJet have filed the schedule for flights to Shirdi from Mumbai and Hyderabad, respectively, Kakani said. “Budget carrier IndiGo has also applied for launching air services to Shirdi,” he added. The Director General of Civil Aviation had, on September 21, granted aerodrome licence to the airport in the temple town for public use for day operations “after ensuring compliance of all relevant standards.” The Ministry of Civil Aviation had granted ‘in principle’ approval to the construction of the airport in Rahata tehsil of Ahmednagar district in 2011.
According to an estimate, about 60,000 pilgrims visit Shirdi every day, out of which the airport authorities plan to tap at least 10-12 per cent. Constructed at an investment of around Rs 350 crore, including Rs 50 crore from the Shri Saibaba Sasthan Trust, the airport is capable of handling single narrow-body aircraft, such as Airbus A320 and Boeing 737s with a 2,500 meter long runway. 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.