Andrew Tinkler has bought a stake in British airline Flybe, just as it was announced that a consortium made up of Stobart Group and led by Virgin Atlantic was set to purchase the airline.

It has been reported by Sky News that the former chief executive of Stobart Group has bought 10 per cent-worth of shares in the airline, and it is due to be disclosed on the London Stock Exchange this morning.

Mr Tinkler and Stobart Group are waiting for the judgement of a legal battle heard in the High Court at the end of last year.

Mr Tinkler was removed from Stobart last year for an alleged breach of contract, which he denied.

They sued each other amid allegations relating to millions of pounds of expenses claims and vote-rigging at a company shareholder meeting.

Reports said over the weekend that sources close to Mr Tinkler claimed he was not seeking to disrupt the takeover of Flybe by the consortium. valued at £2.2 million.

The takeover comes less than two months after Flybe put itself up for sale, after it warned over its profits following falling demand and a £29 million hit from rising fuel costs and the weak pound.

Stobart Group walked away from a bid for Flybe in March after the two firms failed to agree terms.

Flybe has 78 planes operating from smaller airports including London City, Southampton and Norwich, and flies to destinations across the UK and Europe.

It carries around eight million passengers a year.

The new deal will see Virgin Atlantic operate the network of regional flights provided by a combination of Flybe and Stobart Air.

It is believed Stobart is contributing the assets of Stobart Air rather than any cash in exchange for its stake.

Warwick Brady, Stobart Group chief executive, said: "The board of Stobart Group believes that bringing Stobart Air together with Flybe and partnering with Virgin Atlantic and Cyrus Capital is the best way for us to play an active role in UK regional flying.

"The combined entity will be a powerful combination with sufficient scale to compete effectively in the UK and European airline markets.

"t will allow us to continue to work with Flybe and provides an excellent opportunity to continue to grow passenger numbers at London Southend Airport."

Stobart Group plans to open Carlisle airport to commercial plans this year. Launch dates for the new services, which will fly to Southend, Dublin and Belfast, were postponed last year after a shortage of air traffic controllers.