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Union Civil Aviation Minister P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Thursday launched upgraded airport services at Sambra on the outskirts of Karnataka's northwest city aimed at facilitating passenger and cargo traffic in the region.
"The upgraded airport will enable state-run and private airlines to operate daily more flights to and from strategically located Belagavi," Belagavi Additional Deputy Commissioner Suresh Itnal told IANS here.
Located about 500km from Bengaluru and 480km from Mumbai, Belagavi has the potential to be part of the hub-and-spoke model of civil aviation, connecting Mangaluru, Hubballi, and Mysuru across the state and Panaji in neighbouring Goa.
"Though SpiceJet has been the lone operator with turboprop ATR-72 daily from Bengaluru to Mumbai vial Belagavi during day and vice versa, extension of the runway to 2,300 metres will enable it and other airlines to operate even Boeing or Airbus aircraft round the clock," Itnal said.
"As the airport is fully equipped for any aircraft to land and take off in all-weather conditions, even chartered service can be operated with smaller aircraft or helicopters," he said.
The upgraded airport could give a fillip to thousands of farmers to market their fruits, vegetables and flowers grown in the region throughout the year.
"We are looking forward to full-fledged cargo services from Belagavi due to its road and rail connectivity to major cities in south, west, central and northern states. With cold storage and supply chain, farmers and other stakeholders will benefit from the new airport," the official said.
Budget carrier Indigo and Jet Airways evinced interest to commence their daily service to and from Belagavi, preferably in the regional circuit.
The Rs 110-crore upgraded airport boasts of new apron, air traffic control, taxiway, isolation bay and night instrumental landing system.
"The airport has the latest navigation and communication with safety systems and processes," said its Director Rajesh Kumar Maurya on the occasion.
The state-run Airport Authority of India (AAI) will continue to operate the 360-acre airport, as in Mangaluru and Hubballi in the southern state.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah recalled that Belagavi airport was one of the oldest in the state, built in 1942 as a military base in the pre-Independence days.
"With a view to promoting regional air connectivity and converge, we are developing five minor airports at Shivamogga, Vijayapura, Kalaburagi, Hassan, and Ballari," he said.