As of 30th June, the airport, which connects Maharashtra’s temple town of Shirdi, has seen 5,744 flight operations and 4.10 lakh passengers since it was operationalised on October 1st 2017. On the back of this, the State government has cleared the decks for the extension of the runway, construction of a new terminal building and operationalisation of night-landing facilities at Shirdi airport.
The government will float a tender in a month’s time for the construction of a new terminal building at Shirdi. The work is expected to be completed in a year-and-a-half. This will increase the capacity of the facility to handle passengers to 1,000 per hour, from the present 300 (150 arrivals and departures each). Around 70% of the 840-acre land has been acquired. The runway will be 2,000 metres long and will later be extended to 3,000 metres.
Over 2-2.5 crore devotees from India and abroad visit Shirdi annually. The airport is expected to boost religious tourism to the temple town and promote industrial development. Lack of dedicated air connectivity meant visitors had to fly down to either Mumbai, Pune or Aurangabad and drive to Shirdi.
CM Fadnavis is scheduled to attend the ground-breaking ceremony of the Amravati airport at Belora for the runway extension works. The runway’s length will be increased to 1,850 metres from the present 1,382. The project has a target of March 2020. The airport can land smaller flights, but we want it to cater to larger aircraft. The state government also plans to establish Greenfield airports at Boramani in Solapur and at Chandrapur. At Solapur, a chimney of a sugar factory is intruding in the existing airport’s funnel. The land acquisition for the Chandrapur airport is expected to be completed by the end of the 2020-21 financial year.
Maharashtra has 29 airports and airstrips, the highest in India. However, only a few of these like Mumbai, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Shirdi and Nashik, are commercially operational.
Smaller airports lack scheduled flights and cater to only smaller aircraft, making them “underused”.