President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday inaugurated the newly-built airport at Shirdi in 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 airport to the people and flagged off a flight to Mumbai.
Minister for Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Maharashtra Chief Mini ster 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 national carrier said in a statement. The flight landed in Mumbai at 11.15 am. “The flight AI 9654, a 72-seater ATR 72-600, took off from the Shirdi airport at about 10.30 am and landed at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at 11.15 am,” Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC) vice chairman and managing director Suresh Kakani said.
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. 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.