Carlisle Airport is just 121 days from making history.

At precisely 8am, on July 4, a 33-seater Saab 340B aircraft will rev its engines and head down the runway before lifting into the sky and beginning its southward journey towards London.

After more than 14 years of debate, controversy, and delay, the newly upgraded Carlisle Lake District Airport will at last have given its answer to the cynics who said this day would never come.

The Stobart Group owned airport has teamed up with Loganair to launch commercial passenger flights, with regular journeys scheduled to London Southend, Belfast, and Dublin.

It will be an emotional day for Kate Willard, who has been working towards this goal for the last 17 years.

“I think I’m going to cry,” admitted Kate, who is director of partnership development with Stobart Group. “It will be unbelievably emotional in a happy kind of way. But I think my overwhelming feeling will be one of pride.

“Pride in my colleagues who have worked so hard to make this happen; pride in our partners; and pride in Cumbria. Everybody has shown such strength and tenacity to make this happen.

“It’s been a long and difficult journey; and last year was very difficult. But at last this airport is happening - and this is something that is happening nowhere else in the UK just now.”

“The team have been working round the clock and have been amazing since the very start of the project. I would like to thank the people of Carlisle, Cumbria and the Lake District and our partners for their patience.”

The start of comercial passenger flights will be particularly special day for Carlisle MP John Stevenson, who that day celebrates his 56th birthday.

“It will be an early birthday present,” he said, beaming.

“It’s tremendous news for our city. Yes, there have been false starts. But now it is a tremendous opportunity for Carlisle. It comes on the back of some really positive news: the southern link road, and the garden village.

“It demonstrates that Carlisle really is becoming a regional player in the north of England; and that it is starting to get noticed. We’re going to see further investment across the board as a result of this.

“It shows that Carlisle is now punching at its weight; and may yet punch above its weight. It puts Carlisle very much at the centre of the Borderlands region.”

Carlisle City Council Leader Colin Glover agreed.

He said: “This really makes a statement to the world about the kind of place Carlisle is: it’s a regional capital, and a place to invest in. This is a tremendous investment. I want to congratulate Stobart Group for their commitment and their vision in making this happen.”

Stobart Group chief executive Warwick Brady said he was disappointed in the delays which last year hit the project, but he insisted that it was far better to wait and get the project right.

He stressed that the project was considered viable only because the airport was part of a wider vision for the Crosby-on-Eden site. “It could only be viable as part of a bigger picture,” he said.

“It needs to be much more than a pure airport. We have a 400 acre site, and we have 31 acres of industrial land. We want to create an industrial hub. It’s part of a bigger picture.”

John Grainger, stakeholder relations director with Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster, said: “I’ve always seen this as an airport for the greater region. I was once asked to name the attributes of an industrial city in the north. I said it should have a cathedral, a team in the Football League, a university, and an airport. For the first time, we’ve got them all.”