THESE are exciting times at Teesside Airport as the first holiday plane takes off and we begin to see if mayor Ben Houchen’s immense gamble is going to pay off.

Usage of the airport peaked in 2006 when 917,963 passengers went through its terminal. Then came the financial crash and the suspicion grew that its private owners were more interested in its potential as a housing estate than as a transport hub.

Mr Houchen’s eye-catching pledge to take it back into public ownership was a major part of his surprise mayoral victory in 2017. His pledge chimed with people who want to see their local area flying high.

And he delivered – although at big cost. The purchase of the airport was £40m and since then there has been £19.2m on operational costs and a further £15m on capital spending. Even though 92 per cent of the work refitting the terminal has gone to local companies, these big figures mean Mr Houchen has many critics waiting on the apron to shoot him down should it not succeed.

Taking control of an airport during the century’s worst pandemic is not good timing, but we really hope the airport does succeed. As well as safeguarding the existing jobs, we see it as a beacon drawing in investment and selling the region to the wider world as a place that is really taking off.

And, on a day when the east coast was shrouded in a chilly fret, we so want a sunny holiday straight from our doorstep.