President inaugurates Shirdi International airport, daily flights to and from Mumbai planned
President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday inaugurated the newly-built airport at Shirdi in Maharashtra and flagged off the facility’s maiden commercial flight to Mumbai.
According to airport sources, the president’s aircraft arrived at the Shirdi airport from New Delhi at around 10.30 am after which he immediately inaugurated the new structure and flagged off an Alliance Air flight.
Kovind said the new airport would help pilgrims and visitors, besides triggering economic activities and creating jobs in the region.
Alliance Air, the regional arm of national carrier Air India, will operate services to Shirdi from Mumbai and Hyderabad.
Minister for Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis launched the flight by giving away boarding passes to passengers, along with Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal and senior Air India officials.
The flight landed in Mumbai at 11.15 am.
“Flight AI 9654, a 72-seater ATR 72-600, took off from the Shirdi airport at about 10.30 am and landed at Mumbais Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at 11.15 am,” Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC) Vice-Chairman and MD Suresh Kakani said.
Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao and Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, were among the other dignitaries present.
Fadnavis said the Shirdi airport was the first in the country to be developed developed by a state government, adding that its runway will be expanded to 3,200 metres from the present 2,500 metres to accommodate bigger aircraft in future.
The airport secured the aerodrome licence from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for commercial operations last month.
Located 238 km from the country’s financial hub Mumbai, Shirdi is home to 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, of which the airport authorities plan to tap at least 10-12 percent.
The aerodrome is owned and developed by 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 Rs 350 crore, including Rs 50 crore from the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust, the airport, with its 2,500 meter-long runway, is capable of handling single narrow-body aircraft, such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.
The 2,750 sq m terminal building has been designed to handle upto 300 passengers, including the arriving ones.
Meanwhile, a 72-seater flight from Mumbai to Shirdi and vice versa will operate daily, cutting down the travel time from the current 5-6 hours by road to under an hour.
“The flight AI 9653 will depart Mumbai at 8.30 am to reach Shirdi at 9.15 am. The return flight will depart Shirdi at 9.45 am and arrive in Mumbai at 11.05 am on Wednesday, Friday and Sundays,” Air India said in the statement.
On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday it will leave Mumbai at 3.29 pm to arrive in Shirdi at 4.5 pm and leave Shirdi at 4.30 pm to arrive in Mumbai at 5.15 pm.
With PTI inputs