Bellary, Karnataka, Dec 1: Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel today threw open for commercial operations the Jindal Vijaynagar airport of JSW Steels Ltd, the country's second largest integrated steel producers, to commemorate Suvarna Karnataka, the 50th year of the State's formation.
This was the first private airfield in the corporate sector which had been opened up for commercial operations to civil airlines. The Director General of Civil Aviation had certified the airport fit for operations by ATR aircraft on the 1,500 m runway. Air Deccan became the first airline to begin operations from the airport.
At a ceremony at Toranagallu in the district, Mr Patel also laid the foundation stone for Kaladham heritage village and an up-market resort hotel by Saraf Hotels group.
Mr Patel commended the initiative shown by the JSW group and said ''JSW Steel Ltd is the first steel plant in the country to be connected with a commercial airport.'' Today, air connectivity was a must for economic development, he added.
In an initiative to boost international tourist traffic and facilitate better connectivity to the timeless architectural splendour of Hampi, JSW Steels was working towards developing Vijaynagar airfield as a fully functional airport like extending and strengthening the runway along with ticketing and check-in counters.
In his inaugural address, JSW Steels Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Sajjan Jindal said ''the air connectivity will help to bridge the gap between Bangalore and Hampi and thus provide a much-needed thrust to tourism in the region, which was lagging due to lack of infrastructure.'' The hotel and Kaladham would act as a magnet for tourists as well as provide livelihood for the locals.
To provide end-to-end connectivity with Bangalore and Goa, Air Deccan started operating daily flights, leaving Bangalore at 1255 hrs and arriving here at 1400 hrs. On the return leg, the flight would depart here at 1710 hrs and reach Bangalore at 1810 hrs. The flight from Goa would leave there at 1550 hrs and reach here at 1655 hrs. On return, the flight would reach Goa at 1535 hrs leaving Bellary at 1425 hrs.