PUNE: Devotees of Saibaba can hope to fly to Shirdi from the next month.
Shirdi airport will be the first airfield developed and managed by the Maharashtra Airport Development Company Limited (MADC) in Ahmednagar district, officials said.
The airport will be connected to Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, among others.
With the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) stating last week that since its formation in 2002, MADC had not been able to develop even a single airport in the state, Vishwas M. Patil, the chairman and managing director, MADC, told TOI that the greenfield airport in Shirdi will be the first on their list.
"The airport at Shirdi is almost ready and will be operated by MADC. Flight operations will start from next month. As far as CAG's observations are concerned, I will not be able to comment," he said.
According to Patil, MADC will first operate domestic flights from Shirdi. Later, international flights will also be started. "MADC is currently working on the details," Patil said.
A sum of Rs 340.54 crore had already been sanctioned by the ministry of civil aviation for the airport.
"In the domestic circuit, we expect four to five flights to land and take off from the airport. Some of the routes include Shirdi-Hyderabad, Shirdi-Delhi, Shirdi-Mumbai among others. More routes will be added in the near future," Patil said.
"A runway stretch of 2,500 meter is ready along with a large terminal building spanning 3,000sqm. Last month, a sum of Rs 40 crore was sanctioned for extending the runway by 700 meter, the work for which has been initiated. In addition to the same, the ATC (air traffic control) tower and systems are in place. All efforts are being made to give the airport an international look as we want to start international flights from this year," the official added.
The Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust is set to celebrate the centenary year of Shirdi Saibaba from October 1, the preparations for which are in full swing. The celebrations will go on till October 18 and is expected to attract a huge number of followers of Saibaba.
"The plan is to make the airport fully operational so that people can go to Shirdi directly from different cities across the country. We plan to start some international flights to Shirdi by October before the celebrations start. The place attracts a lot of foreign tourists and the airport will be able to cater to the same," Patil said.