WA Developments International, owner of Carlisle Airport, will submit a planning application in September to redevelop the 1940s site into an international airport with daily flights.
The £25m project includes replacing the runway, rebuilding the terminal and part of the hangar space to serve air and road freight.
The airport is also to be renamed Carlisle Lake District Airport as part of a marketing drive to attract more tourists. A link with a London airport is a top priority, followed by Paris, Amsterdam, Belfast and Dublin.
Andrew Tinkler, group chairman of WADI (pictured), said talks had started with airlines which may "fit the bill" for the airport, located seven miles outside of Carlisle city centre, close to Hadrian's Wall and less than an hour's drive from the North Lakes.
"We will take our time and only start with an operator that can commit to services and is not just going to come in then pull out a short while later," said Tinkler, alluding to the fragility of certain services at regional airports.
He added: "There are fifteen million tourists a year coming to the Lake District and that figure could be a lot more. We have done studies and believe there will be more incoming traffic than outgoing due to the tourist industry."
The planning application, due to go before Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council, as highways authority, will seek permission to create 85,000 sq ft of offices, including check-in and departure lounges and WADI's relocated headquarters.
A new 500,000 sq ft distribution warehouse will initially be leased to road haulier, Eddie Stobart, of which Tinkler is also chairman and a shareholder.
A fuel/service station and hotel could be built on the A689 under the plans. The project architect for the whole redevelopment is Scott Wilson.
In August, Eddie Stobart entered the London Stock Exchange when it merged with listed Westbury Property Fund and unveiled a strategy to create a multi-modal road, rail, and river facility at the Port of Weston and Widnes on the Merseyside-Cheshire border.
Tinkler said: "The fact is we can use our existing customer base to help support the airport. The freight hangars may in time be used by air freight but again we will be patient as we want to find services that last."
If approved, the redevelopment could be completed by February 2009.
The airport, which currently handles only a couple of light aircraft a week, is likely to be used by turbo-prop planes capable of carrying between 50 and 100 passengers. Joint venture operations with airlines are also being examined.
WADI also contains a large rail engineering contract arm and has a turnover of £170m and employs 2,500 people.
It is currently based in offices at Kingsmoor Business Centre in Kingstown, Carlisle and facilities in Appleby, near Penrith. WADI and Eddie Stobart will both relocate to Carlisle Airport if planning permission is granted.
The move will result in some redundancies at Appleby but WADI insists the overall growth prospects will generate considerable long-term employment in Carlisle and the wider Cumbria area.