PUNE: The state would have three more airports by next year, stressed senior Maharashtra Airport Development Company Limited (MADC) officials.
“We expect to complete the work of Sindhudurg airport by March 2020. The runway of the facility, as well as the terminal building is complete. Procurement of equipment, such as flight information display screens and x-ray scanners, is on. The airport is being built on a public-private partnership model. IRB Infrastructure Developers Limited has been given the responsibility of developing it,” MADC chairman-cum-managing director Suresh Kakani told TOI.
The state currently has fully operational airports in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik and Shirdi. Apart from these, there are many unserved and underserved airports and airstrips in the state with very few flights. Some of them are in Aurangabad, Nanded, Jalgaon and Kolhapur. Airports, like the one in Solapur, have unscheduled flight operations.
Apart from Sindhudurg, the Amravati airport is expected to start commercial operations by August, 2020. “The extension of the airport’s existing runway will be completed by March. Constructuon work of the terminal building will begin in two weeks. We expect to complete the project by August. Plans to start the Chandrapur airport is also on and we expect the airport to be complete by December next year,” Kakani said.
Sources said the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) would receive a much-needed boost one more airports became operational. “RCS is an initiative of the Centre. We think that by having more operational airports, the airlines will be keen to connect smaller cities through these airports in the first phase,” another official told TOI.
“Even if an airport is ready for commercial operations, getting airlines to start flight services is a big task. The Shirdi airport has become one of the fastest growing airports in the state in two years because the town has a religious importance. But the same cannot be said of all places, as the airlines take their own time and do their assessment before starting any route,” the official said.
The RCS or UDAN, which came into effect in 2017, has had a bumpy ride in Maharashtra. Only seven routes have started, though more than 29 airports and airstrips have floated bids for the airlines.
“While the development of more airports is welcome, the government’s focus should be on ways to make them lucrative for airlines. The airlines need to start flights from the airports,” aviation analyst and expert Dhairyashil Vandekar said.