Finnish Air Force 100th Anniversary Airshow.
Jyvaskyla Air Base, Central Finland, 16-17 June 2018
Report by Peter Davison and Colin Coulthard
Finland rarely holds military airshows other than the ‘Midnight Hawks’ display team event at the Kauhava Air Force Academy. Hence, this event was eagerly awaited and attracted a considerable number of aviation enthusiasts; many making their first visit to the country whose welcoming attitude was a pleasure to experience. Finland has many significant aeronautical museums and these enjoyed, or suffered, a great increase in visitors keen to see the blend of east and west evident across the collections.
Apart from a practice day on the Friday to certificate the flying elements the public show was just two days with vast crowds taking the opportunity to see their Air Arm that has protected their Nation’s neutrality for many years despite living ‘on the edge’ during the Cold War. With a population of around five million, at times, it felt like a large proportion were queuing for refreshment, inspecting the static displays or watching the flying that was split into four sessions.
Unfortunately, the airfield orientation with the public on the north side of the runway meant that most of the action had a bright sun backlighting the air displays, dazzling onlookers on a very hot mid-summer day. With almost 24 hour daylight adding to the crowds’ fatigue.
There is currently a procurement competition in play for a new fighter aircraft so the foreign elements, often with company support, made for representations from SAAB with their Gripen light fighter, through the Dassault Rafale, BAe Typhoon to the heavyweight Growler from the USA which enjoys commonality with the existing fleet of F-18 Hornets. A replica F-35 Lightning III was also present despite it’s considerable price tag for a militarily minor nation.
All these heavy metal contenders were bunched together at the end of the flying demonstrations which was a pity as some tired families, or those with a three our drive back to the capital, Helsinki, missed this exciting climax. On a repeat event, hopefully before the bi-centenary, perhaps a better mix might be attempted through the day.
The static displays naturally featured most of the current Finnish Air Force types and elements from the past; significantly two SAAB fighters from the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight and items brought across from the Air Force Museum at Tikkakoski, located on the southern perimeter of the base. Finland is famed for having numerous different types in fairly small quantities that brings great variety but also a technical challenge for restorers and engineers alike. The Messershmidt 109 and Bristol Blenheim displayed in the static were pristine and evidence of other, non Soviet influence throughout the 20thCentury.
Earlier in the day we were treated to exciting aerobatics from Pitts biplanes, tight turns and loops from the Steiglitz and replica Fokker biplanes plus helicopter demonstrations and gyrocopters. Numerous retired training aircraft are now in private ownership and the mixed display by four Safirs and four operational Vinka training aircraft showed a unique mixed display only possible in air-minded Scandinavia. Even the jet aero-modellers were represented in an interval.
Other jet trainers on display were a pair of Fouga Magisters and examples of the BAe Hawk jet trainers bought from the Swiss Air Force still sporting their bright red and white liveries. The earlier grey camouflaged Hawks were naturally flown as a four-ship national display team ‘Midnight Hawks’ who thrilled the audience with a tight disciplined display emphasised by trademark smoke trails.
All in all a great event, well run by a team cutting their teeth on a major international airshow. We hope the income and goodwill generated encourages the Air Force, and the Nation, to conjure up another weekend of aeronautical magic sooner rather than later.