Carlisle Airport

Carlisle Lake District Airport or Carlisle Airport (IATA: CAX, ICAO: EGNC) is located 5 NM (9.3 km; 5.8 mi) east northeast of Carlisle, Cumbria, England.

Carlisle has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence (Number P855) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction, up to a maximum takeoff weight authorised (MTWA) of 12.5 tonnes.

The airport is located on a hill side above the River Irthing. The airport has been the location for some prehistoric excavations

Since May 2009, the airport lease has been owned by the Stobart Group.

RAF Crosby-on-Eden

In the early 1930s, the Carlisle County Borough council opened Kingstown Municipal Airport, at the time outside the borough boundaries which later became the RAF Kingstown and is now Kingstown or Kingmoor Industrial estate. With the outbreak of war in 1939, RAF Kingstown's runway was too small for bombers, so the Royal Air Force developed a new airstrip at Crosby-on-Eden . The new facility came into operation in February 1941 for training operations, designating the station RAF Crosby-on-Eden.

Originally housing No.59 Operational Training Unit the station provided day training for Hawker Hurricane pilots , which was replaced by OTU17 Group Coastal Command in August 1942 for training long-range fighter crews on Bristol Beaufort and Bristol Beaufighter conversion squadrons, as well as air firing and night flying . In August 1944 the station came under the command of 109 OTU, a transport command of Douglas Dakotas . The station was renamed 1383 TCU 1/8/45. After World War II British European Airways commenced flights to Ronaldsway and Belfast. However, the station had no post war use or need, and was closed in 1947 with the airfield returning to Carlisle Council to continue as a municipal airport.

Purchase by Carlisle City Council

In 1960 Carlisle City Council purchased the site and renamed it Carlisle Airport. After a short refurbishment program it was licensed in 1961 for training purposes and civilian flights to destinations including London, the Channel Islands, Belfast and the Isle of Man . Most of the original RAF structures remain intact today, although a lack of investment and maintenance has restricted much of the perimeter road, as well as shortening and weight restricting the runways.

Although regular scheduled flights from the airport have operated, some have never been viable commercially leading to a series of failed operations. In 1967 Autair started a service to London, using Luton at first, then Heathrow. They also operated a summer service to Jersey. in 1969 they stopped all their schedules and changed their name to Court Line. In 1978 British Nuclear Fuels began flying nuclear material to customers in the UK and Europe, but this was stopped shortly after coming to media attention, but recommenced in 1987. In 1982 Air Ecosse started flights to Scotland (Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee), and London, followed a year later for two summer seasons only to the Isle of Man. After the collapse of Air Ecosse in 1985, its routes ceased and only the route to London continued, being run for two years by EuroAir. Viking began flights to Jersey in 1985 as a charter operation but the following year operated as a schedule by BAF until October 1987, the same year Air Furness briefly revived Isle of Man flights until July 1988 .

On 21 December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 crashed at Lockerbie. Carlisle was the nearest airport and took 4 movements in the 24 h before the accident, and 196 in the 24 h following the accident: including rescue and media helicopters, a PAN AM 727, and a United States Air Force C-130 Hercules .

In 1993 New Air started a London service to London Stansted Airport, but collapsed two months later. Lakeside Northwest continued the service until the end of the year, but also collapsed - while in 1994 Northumberland-based Geordie Air Travel never got off the ground.

In 1995, Lewis Holidays planned to run Saturday flights to Jersey, while in 1996 Cumbria council refused to give financial support to Belgian airline VLM for 4 flights per day to London City Airport. In 1997, the council agreed to extend the runway to allow Boeing 737's to land into a new air-cargo hub, but the proposal collapsed.

Sale to Haughey Airports

As the airport had lost £3.5 million on operations between 1979 and 1994, Carlisle Council agreed to sell the airport on a 150 year lease to Haughey Airports in 2000. The company was owned by Northern Irish entrepreneur Edward Haughey, who owned nearby Corby Castle in Cumbria. Haughey invested £4 million in infrastructure improvements but, whilst promising to provide additional facilities and enhancements to the site for the Solway Aviation Museum, he sold the airfield to WA Developments in 2006 before achieving this.

Acquisition by WA Developments

In May 2006, Haughey Airports was acquired by WA Developments, which had acquired Eddie Stobart Ltd., the UK's largest haulage contractor, in February 2004. Haughey Airports Ltd was re-named Stobart Air Ltd and a sub-division within WA Developments called Stobart Air was formed. The airport was then re-branded Carlisle Lake District Airport.

Under WA Developments, some development was planned for Carlisle Lake District Airport which would have seen the introduction of freight and passenger services in the future, along with the re-surfacing of the existing runway to accept larger aircraft as part of a £21 million development . Ryanair also expressed an interest in using the completed airport as a hub .

Becoming part of the Stobart Group

Following WA Development's decision to merge Eddie Stobart with the property and ports company the Westbury Property Fund in August 2007 and to list it on the London Stock Exchange as the Stobart Group, Carlisle Lake District Airport initially remained within the ownership of WA Developments, through its subsidiary Stobart Air Holdings. On 10 March 2008, the Stobart Group entered into a £50,000 option to acquire Carlisle Lake District Airport from Stobart Air Holdings for £15 million (£2.5 million in cash and £12.5 million in new Stobart Group shares). This option was extended in July 2008 until January 2009 for a further £50,000.

On 2 December 2008, the Stobart Group announced the surprise £21 million purchase of London Southend Airport.

Planning permission was granted in December 2008 for the Carlisle Lake District Airport expansion and other developments, including a resurfaced runway and new terminal, a major transport and distribution facility for Eddie Stobart Ltd, along with a joint headquarters building.

In January 2009, Stobart Group exercised its option to acquire Carlisle Lake District Airport from Stobart Air Holdings for £14 million (£1 million less than originally announced). Following an independent shareholder vote, the acquisition was completed in May 2009, and the purchase price was reduced to £9.9 million due to a fall in the value of Stobart Group shares.

In October 2009 Andy Judge (former Leeds-Bradford, Bournemouth and Luton Airports Operations chief) took over as airport manager. On the 7 October at the Cumbria Tourist Board's AGM he confirmed that work at the airport would have begun early 2010 and hoped that flights to Paris, Belfast and Dublin would be in operation by 2011.

However, on 19 May 2010 the Court of Appeal overturned the City Council's decision to grant planning permission due to an objection by a local farmer, a Mr Gordon Brown, on the grounds that a full environmental assessment had not been carried out before permission was considered. Eddie Stobart Ltd. expressed disappointment with the ruling and stated that (although they still retained a long-term commitment to Cumbria), in view of contractual obligations, they would now instead have to use facilities elsewhere.

In January 2011, Stobart Air submitted proposals to build a 394,000 sq ft Air Freight Distribution Centre on the site. Under the plans, Eddie Stobart would re-locate all its Carlisle depots to the airport, and there would be passenger flights to and from London Southend Airport, operated by Aer Arann, an airline partly owned by the Stobart Group through a convertible preference share acquired in October 2010. A decision is not expected on this planning application until at least 19 August 2011.

Other activities

Carlisle Lake District Airport is also home to the Solway Aviation Museum and the Carlisle Flight Training and Aero Club.

A lorry driving training company, System Training, is based at a site opposite Carlisle Lake District Airport. This was featured in Episode 7 of Series 2 of the Channel 5 TV programme Eddie Stobart: Trucks & Trailers, originally aired on 20 June 2011. Ed Stobart, the 20-year-old son of Stobart Group Chief Operating Officer William Stobart, passed his HGV Class 1 driving licence using that school.

Radio 1's Big Weekend 2011

In early 2011, BBC Radio 1 announced Carlisle Airport as the venue for their annual free music festival, Radio 1's Big Weekend. The festival took place over the weekend of 14/15 May, 2011 and featured headline acts, such as Lady Gaga, My Chemical Romance and the Foo Fighters. The festival is to date the biggest free-ticketed event in Europe, attended by 40,000 fans over 2 days. The BBC assembled an assortment of 'stages' on the site, including a huge main tent, with a capacity of over 12,000.