Helsinki to unilaterally evict Malmi Airport in 2010 - Kiikala not a viable replacement site

7 December 2004

The City of Helsinki has on Saturday 4 December made public its intention to unilaterally evict historic Malmi Airport by annulling the land cession agreement (valid until 2034) at the end of 2010. The motion by the Real Estate Department will be put to vote in the Real Estate Committee on Wednesday 8 December at 8:30am.

Update 8 December 2004: The Real Estate Committee voted unanimously in favor of evicting Malmi Airport at the end of 2010.

Update 10 January 2005: The City Board left the matter on the table.

Update 17 January 2005: The City Board approved the decision that the City will tell the State that there are grounds for annulling the land cession agreement of Malmi Airport, and that the City asks the State to return the land area to the City's control at the end of 2010.

Kiikala cannot replace Malmi

The City of Helsinki presents Kiikala aviation center (100 km away), proposed by the municipality of Kiikala, as a "replacement" site for the activities of Malmi. It must be noted, however, that the so-called Piirainen working group of the Ministry of Transport and Communication already in 2000 deemed Kiikala to be too far from Helsinki to be a viable option for relocation of the activities of Malmi Airport [1].

The working group defined clear and unambiguous requirements for the replacement site. It must "serve the present users of Malmi Airport functionally at least equally well and be situated in a satisfactory manner", and must offer possibilities of development for business aviation. The airfield must offer versatile education services from private and professional pilot training to hobby aviation. In addition, the airfield must be international (with Customs and passport inspection) and must have air traffic control and instrument approach equipment at least comparable to Malmi.

In its present form, Kiikala does not fulfil any of these requirements. The Civil Aviation Administration, operating on commercial enterprise basis, has been quite unambiguous about not taking care of the costs of a replacement airfield [2].

Malmi is the most important pilot education center in Finland

The major part of the present aviation activities at Malmi consists of pilot training. The economical prerequisites for the operation of Malmi's commercial aviation schools are important to the whole aviation business in Finland because around 2/3 of all professional pilots are educated there [3,4]. The professional pilot students of the Finnish Aviation Academy in Pori also receive their basic training at Malmi. Half of all private pilots are trained at Malmi, as are a substantial part of hobby aviators. The aviation schools have made it clear that the cost-sensitive education business has no economical prerequisites far away from the city.

The increasingly tight European aviation regulations and control by the authorities necessitate more and more education in the field of aviation in the future. At the same time, this situation offers new possibilities for high-quality aviation education in expanding Europe.

It is completely impossible that Kiikala could serve these needs. The journey from Helsinki to Kiikala takes more than an hour in one direction. The distance makes efficient training, maintenance and public authority services unreasonably difficult. In practice the acceptance of Kiikala as a "replacement" airfield for Malmi would mean the end of general aviation in the capital region. The nearest place for powered flight training would be Turku Airport, and this is the situation in Kiikala even today [5].

Malmi is an endangered world-class cultural treasure

Finland, as a member state of UNESCO, has in October 2003 signed the UNESCO Declaration concerning Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage. The Declaration is a moral obligation to the member states to take measures to prevent intentional destruction of cultural heritage and to define legal responsibilities on state and individual level in cases where intentional destruction of cultural heritage is involved. The Declaration is applicable to cultural heritage sites regardless of whether they have been listed as cultural heritage or not.

Malmi Airport as a functional airfield has been listed both on national level and internationally as a notable and endangered cultural site (National Board of Antiquities [6], DoCoMoMo Finland [7], World Monuments Fund [8]). In the case of Malmi Airport, international cultural organizations will closely follow what "fulfilment of a moral obligation" means in Finland.

The special value of Malmi Airport is based on the remarkably well-preserved historical and living whole, of which very few have survived to the present day. Several historical aircraft operate from the Airport, among them the invaluable sole airworthy DC-3 airliner in Finland, maintained by the DC Society.

In recent years the Airport has become an increasingly popular place to visit for families and aviation enthusiasts. With the destruction of Malmi Airport, the capital region would lose its only place for aviation incentives and experiences as well as a world-class cultural rarity that has great potential to be developed into an internationally unique aviation attraction.

Malmi Airport is a gateway to the Baltic states and to all Europe

All noteworthy European metropols have a general aviation airfield [9]. With the loss of Malmi Airport, the Finnish capital region would become a rare exception to this rule at the periphery of expanding Europe. It would no longer be practical to arrive in Helsinki by lighter aircraft. Yet it is foreseeable that in the future such traffic will inevitably increase especially towards the Baltic states. It is worth remembering that from the point of view of continental Europe, Finland and its capital are an island.

A separate airfield serving light traffic in large cities is a considerable asset to the smooth operation of air traffic in general [10]. In Sweden, e.g., the historical Bromma Airport next to the city center of Stockholm has been preserved especially to uphold the economical competitive edge of the region in spite of the fact that there are four other general aviation airports comparable to Malmi within a 25 km radius.

Malmi is a civilian airport

The Helsinki Real Estate Department founds its eviction plan on the claim that aviation activities defined in the land cession agreement do not exist at Malmi any more [11]. Contrary to the claims of the City of Helsinki, the land cession agreement of Malmi Airport (1935) does not mention scheduled commercial traffic at all, but speaks of civilian air traffic.

The activities at Malmi, the second busiest airport in Finland, are unambiguously civilian air traffic. The situation is comparable to small car traffic, which is road traffic just like commercial bus traffic. Furthermore, Malmi is the home base of Copterline, a company that flies scheduled commercial traffic to Tallinn, Estonia. Commercial taxi flights are also flown from Malmi, and the Airport has from time to time acted as a spare airfield to Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport.

By far the biggest part of civilian traffic at Malmi Airport is pilot training. This is not mentioned at all in the motion by the Real Estate Department [11]. The motion is also in error claiming that "as far as is known, hobby aviation such as the activity of the present-day aviation clubs did not amount to much [in the early years of Malmi Airport]."

For instance, the Polytechnic Students' Aviation Club (PIK) has been active at Malmi Airport from the very beginning [11]. The first international approach chart of Malmi Airport was published in 1938 by a club, "Suomen Ilmailuklubi - Aéro-Club de Finlande".

The reasoning of Helsinki Real Estate Department is completely obvious in its goal-orientedness and does not stand up to critical inspection.

The way in which the City of Helsinki interprets signed contracts is also completely incomprehensible. Suddenly the required compensation of costs to the State for moving the aviation activities elsewhere is, according to the motion by the Real Estate Department, just a matter of negotiation and not binding to the City in any way: "It remains to be negotiated what is a viable plan and from whose point of view."

This can only be interpreted so that it is no longer necessary to find, in the spirit of the original agreement, a viable airfield for the general aviation needs of the capital region. All that is needed is to twist the meanings of words in order to fade away the idea of the original agreement.

The preservation of Malmi Airport has wide support

The citizens of Helsinki have quite unambiguously supported the preservation of historic Malmi Airport in aviation use in a professional opinion poll by Gallup Finland in October 2004 [13]. The Petition to Save Malmi Airport contains more than 26.000 signatures from every part of Finland [14]. In spite of this, the City of Helsinki does not show any signs of respecting the will of the people.

On the contrary, the eviction project has been developed in secrecy and without offering any chance of open discussion. The Chairman of the Real Estate Committee, Mr. Kai Hagelberg, is on record (Helsingin Sanomat 4 December 2004) saying that "it was not desired to bring the matter out before the municipal elections". From the point of view of municipal democracy and of the importance of the matter such a course of action is completely unacceptable.

We demand a new study of the future of Malmi Airport, impartial from the beginning and taking into account all points of view. A new discussion was also recommended by the Minister of Defence Matti Vanhanen in his speech [15] at the 65th Anniversary of Malmi Airport on 18 May 2003:

"In an open democracy the will of the people is always the decisive factor in the end. I urge you all to demand a new discussion and a new setting of objectives regarding Malmi Airport. I believe that the strong support for preserving Malmi Airport prevalent among the people living in Malmi is an indication of the way people in wider circles think about the matter."

In this discussion it is crucial to understand that the fate of Malmi Airport is not just an internal matter of the City of Helsinki. It is a matter of preserving a national and international historical and functional treasure. This has been clearly indicated by the wide support Malmi Airport has received.


[1] Consideration of the Piirainen working group (in Finnish)
[2] The statement of the Civil Aviation Administration regarding Malmi Airport (in Finnish)
[3] Flight Safety Administration Annual Report 2000, Review by the Director (p. 5)
[4] Flight Safety Administration Annual Report 2002, Review by the Director (p. 5)
[5] Web pages of the Kiikala Foundation (in Finnish)
[6] The Year of Building Culture 2003 (in Finnish); see also The statement of the National Board of Antiquities concerning the
     complaint against the treatment of Malmi Airport in the City General Plan (in Finnish)
[7] DoCoMoMo Suomi Finland
[8] World Monuments Fund
[9] General aviation airfields of European metropols
[10] Smooth operation of air traffic in the metropolitan area
[11] Motion by Helsinki Real Estate Department to evict Malmi Airport (in Finnish)
[12] PIK: the early years of polytech university aviation (in Finnish)
[13] Gallup Finland: the opinion of the people of Helsinki about the future of Malmi Airport
[14] Friends of Malmi Airport Society: Petition for Malmi Airport (in Finnish, international version also available)
[15] The speech of Minister of Defence Matti Vanhanen at the 65th Anniversary of Malmi Airport, 18 May 2003 (in Finnish)