THERE is no worse time to try to save an airport than at the start of a pandemic when everyone is in lockdown and foreign travel is forbidden.

At the time the Tees Valley Combined Authority took the airport back into public ownership, it sensibly realised it had no experience of running an airport and so brought in Stobart Air.

Now lockdown is easing and the airport is beginning to get flying again, that expertise would appear to be needed more than ever, but instead, without explanation, two years into a ten year plan, Stobart Air has removed itself from the runway leaving the combined authority alone in the pilot’s seat.

Little wonder Labour, worried about the tens of millions of public money invested in this project, is questioning mayor Ben Houchen about this turn of events and the unusual, even unique, decision to place Stobart’s 25 per cent stake into a charitable trust protected by a referendum.

At the moment, the public still overwhelmingly supports the airport. That may change if it proves to be a bottomless pit, but currently, they see the business need for the airport.

They feel pride in it. They feel that it never got a fair crack of the whip under its previous private owners. They don’t want thousands of houses built across its runways. They accept the pandemic’s unfortunate timing; they accept that public money will be needed to get it up and running. They want it to succeed.

But they also want clarity about why unusual and counter-intuitive steps are being taken.