The inaugural flight between Denver and Tokyo takes to the skies Monday, ferrying with it the vision and aspirations of a region that has worked nearly 27 years to create a direct link between its Middle America location and Asia’s economic opportunities.

Clutching to their visions of a cowtown-turned-global city, regional and city leaders overcame years of challenges in pursuit of the flight — including the recent high-profile mechanical problems with the 787 aircraft that is crucial for the route’s financial viability. Yet the hard work is just beginning as economic development and political leaders try to amass enough business and leisure travelers to sustain the flight long-term.

“It is a seminal moment in our economic development,” said Tom Clark, CEO of Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. “It just shows you the ribbon of a business community that stays in these really, really tough deals together. We knew that the only way we are going to compete globally was to get to Japan.”

A Colorado delegation of about 70 business, education and civic leaders — including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver International Airport’s manager of aviation Kim Day and Colorado Tourism Office director Al White — will be headed to Tokyo June 10 and 11.

The delegation

Tom Dowd, senior director of globalization, Daniels College of Business, University of Denver

Al White, director, Colorado Tourism Office

Paul Washington, executive director, Denver Office of Economic Development

Jamie Van Leeuwen, deputy chief of staff, Office of Gov. John Hickenlooper

Maureen Ulevich, director, Center for International Education, University of Northern Colorado

Steffan Tubbs, host, Colorado’s Morning News, 850 KOA

Bob Stinchcomb, vice president, business development, Vail Resorts Management Co.

Andy Spielman, partner, Hogan Lovells

Janice Sinden, chief of staff, city and county of Denver

Richard Scharf, president and CEO, Visit Denver

Craig Piper, president and CEO, Denver Zoo

Rob Perlman, senior vice president, Intrawest

Kristen Leigh Painter, reporter, The Denver Post

Inta Morris, senior director for grants and strategic initiatives, Colorado Department of Higher Education

Laura Jackson, senior director, Air Service Development and Aviation Research, Denver International Airport

Barry Hirschfeld Jr., president and CEO, AIP-Japan

Eric Hiraga, chief of staff and deputy manager of aviation, Denver International Airport

Mark Hallett, senior director of international studies, Colorado State University

Stephanie Garnica, director, Americas Trade & Investment, Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade

Evan Dreyer, special adviser to the mayor, city and county of Denver

Bob Deibel, president, OfficeScapes

Kim Day, manager of aviation, Denver International Airport

Tom Clark, CEO, Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation

Lawrence Bell, executive director, International Education, University of Colorado

Christopher Herndon, councilman, Denver City Council

Mary Beth Susman, president, Denver City Council

Bob Murphy, mayor, city of Lakewood

Sean Ford, mayor, city of Commerce City

Michael B. Hancock, mayor, city and county of Denver