Speculation is mounting that Stobart Group is considering an offer for airline Flybe as it releases news that it has started a recruitment drive.

Stobart Group is planning to offer the first commercial passenger flights from and to Carlisle airport from June and no carrier has yet been announced.

This morning, Stobart Group said it had begun looking for staff for the airport from air traffic controllers to catering assistants.

Kate Willard, head of corporate projects at Stobart Group, said: "It is really exciting now to be starting recruitment to bring these new people on board.

"The airport is committed to playing its role in the sustainable growth of the Cumbria economy and delivering these new jobs is a fantastic and tangible start to this."

The airline's shares have climbed as speculation that an agreement between the two firms had been reached has mounted.

But a statement from Stobart Group said: "The board notes the movement in the share price of Flybe and press speculation as to a potential takeover of Flybe Group Plc by Stobart Group."

It said Stobart Group and Flybe had a range of shared interests arising from Stobart Group's ownership of London Southend Airport and its aircraft leasing company and the growing franchise arrangements between the two groups' airlines.

It added: "As previously disclosed in October 2017, we have been reviewing alternative structures for our airline and leasing business that can play an important part in the consolidation of the regional airline sector."

The firm said a number of potential structures have been considered, including taking a non-controlling interest in a vehicle to acquire 100 per cent of Flybe in cash.

But, it added: "It is not possible to say, at this stage, whether a transaction will take place, whether a firm proposal will be made or, if it is, the form a transaction to combine the airlines might take.

"A further announcement will be made in due course."

To find out more about the jobs on offer at Carlisle airport, visit www.cn-jobs.co.uk