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Sai Baba devotees can soon take a flight to Shirdi

Flights to the temple town are likely to begin after the monsoon ends,said sources in the Airports Authority of India

mumbai Updated: Aug 19, 2017 16:38 IST
Neha LM Tripathi
Neha LM Tripathi
Hindustan Times
Sai Baba,Mumbai,Delhi
As many as 1 lakh devotees visit the shrine of the 19th century saint Sai Baba daily.(HT File)

Good news for Sai Baba devotees in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi, as they will soon be able to take flights to the temple town of Shirdi. Three flights from Shirdi will be operated for Mumbai and one each for Hyderabad and Delhi, which means 12 flights per day for Shirdi.

Four flights daily will be operated for Mumbai, one from Hyderabad and one from Delhi making the airport have twelve operations per day.

An airport 11 km to the south west of Shirdi, near Kakadi village, will be owned and operated by the Maharashtra Airport Development Company Ltd. (MADC). The airport closest to the shrine as of now is at Aurangabad, 125 km away. There is one at Pune, which is 200 km away. Mumbai’s airport is more than 300 km from the shrine.

Sources in the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said the flights are likely to begin after the monsoon ends. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the AAI and the state government have completed an audit of civil work at the Shirdi airport. While it did not find any substantial issues, a final report is awaited.

Sources said that an MADC official presented a compliance report to DGCA on Friday. According to MADC, all the issues pointed out in the audit have been worked on and two of them will be completed in the coming week. Suresh Kakani, vice chairman and managing director of MADC, said, “Manpower issues raised in the audit have been solved and new employees have commenced their duties. We are expecting the license for the airport to be given maximum by this month end.”

“We have completed all the procedures and have released Rs50 crore as funding for the airport. All the remaining work will begin shortly,” said Rubal Agrawal, CEO, Saibaba Sansthan Trust, the government body that manages the shrine.

Sources said the Shirdi airport’s runway is as long as the Mumbai airport’s and should be able to handle large aircraft such Boeing jets and Airbuses. “The Shirdi airport has a 12,000-foot-long runway, which can handle not only smaller aircraft but also large planes,” said a source.

They added that the airport will eventually be equipped with an instrument landing system — a highly accurate radio signal navigation aid.

As many as 1 lakh devotees visit the shrine of the 19th century saint Sai Baba daily, which means the airport is likely to be busy. A few airlines, including a major low-cost carrier, have shown interest in operating flights to the town, sources said.

“The Shirdi airport will be inaugurated much before the end of the year. Officials are seeking a VIP who can inaugurate it,” said a senior AAI official.

First Published: Aug 18, 2017 13:50 IST