No funds from the Maharashtra government, safety issues plaguing the infrastructure and missing the deadline for commercial operations twice have forced the authorities of the Shirdi airport to approach the airport authority of India (AAI) to take charge.
Although the airport, built by the state-controlled Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC) at a cost of Rs 325 crore, has a 2.5-km state-of-the-art runway ready, the authorities have denied the permission for commercial operations, citing the absence of ATC tower, terminal building and fire-fighting system. The 207-sqm terminal building also needs to be extended to an area of 4,000sqm.
“We have written to the authority a few weeks ago to take over. They can smoothly complete and handle the operation,” an officer from the Mantralaya said.
The company has spent Rs 190 crore on the project and needs state funds to complete it. “In the absence of the mandatory components required for commercial operations, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has not issued an aerodrome licence. So, two months ago, the company applied for permission for non-scheduled operations such as charter flights, helicopters and private services for the devotees coming to Shirdi. This will make the airport partly operational. The DGCA has raised some queries related to safety and infrastructure. We are complying with their order and hope to get the permission soon,” said the officer.
Another officer said the airport has other hurdles such as eviction of illegal construction on the 12-km road connecting the Shirdi temple and the airport, uninterrupted power supply, and the work on the compound wall that is incomplete because of land acquisition.
Tanaji Satre, vice-chairman and managing director, MADC, said, “We are hopeful of getting funds from the government, after which we will complete the work at the earliest. Till then, we plan to start the non-scheduled operations, once we get the permission.”