From swamp to main airport in Finland II

Pentti Salminen / Malmi Illustrated 1997
By permission of the author
Translated and updated by Seppo Sipilä 2003

Malmi Airport is 65 years old

The first aircraft owned by Parachuting Club of Finland, this Cessna 195 was bought in January 1968.
The first aircraft owned by Parachuting Club of Finland, this Cessna 195 was bought in January 1968.

At the end of 1946, the Airport was returned to the Finns. Technician Lauri Hannula of TVH (the Department of Road and Water Construction) and his team found quite a mess to behold. The windows and doors had been lifted off their hinges. All their fittings had been stripped away and transported to satisfy the endless needs of the neighboring country. A lot of work was required to restore the Airport to operational condition.

With President Hoover's visit, the gates to Europe had opened for the Finns, and the gates to the U.S. Army surplus depots as well. From there, Aero acquired eight C-47 military transports, which were modified to familiar DC-3's in Holland and in part at Hyvinkää. The first of these aircraft was flown to Hyvinkää on 19 October 1946. The new type opened new vistas for the future, as the capacity of this 21-seat passenger aircraft seemed phenomenal.

In January 1947 Aero became known as Finnish Air Lines too, and also around that time the first stewardesses of the airline began their work. Back in those days their handsome title was "stewardess" also in Finnish. The relegation of our own airline ended on 5 January 1947, after which traffic at Malmi was back to normal.

Private aviation was still in a slump; the equipment consisted of age-weary aircraft and there was a lack of pilots. Army pilots made short hops at the Airport in Avro Ansons and Brewsters. A few trainer biplanes, Viimas and Stieglitzes, dropped in to wonder at the tranquility of the Airport, as did the Pyrys of Kauhava Air Warfare School.

Civilian Aviation Recovers

However, at an astoundingly fast pace, the Airport recovered. Small aviation schools and companies were founded. The old equipment was supplemented by somewhat "fresher" aircraft from abroad. Domestic mail flights were flown by small aircraft of Lentohuolto Ltd. The first business flights took to the skies. The international borders opened up, and people travelled from Malmi on chartered flights all around Europe and all the way to northern Africa and the Middle East.

Of foreign airlines, SAS - formed by the Swedish SILA, the Danish DDL and the Norwegian DNL - flew regularly to Malmi. The new airline had a route from Stockholm to New York. ABA joined SAS a couple of years later, and the Aero Finnish Air Lines was also courted. With polite resolve, the Finns declined, trusting their domestic strength and independence. American Overseas Airlines (AOA) and Pan American Airways (PAA) also extended their regular routes to Malmi. Royal Air Force Transport Commercial began cargo flights to Central Europe and also to Malmi. From August 1947 on, British European Airways (BEA) had a regular connection from Malmi to Britain. Aeroflot began flights in 1948 on the route Moscow ? Leningrad ?Helsinki. A year later, Czechoslovak Airlines (CSA) flew from Helsinki to Prague and Copenhagen. Finns now had connections both to west and to east. Air traffic was searching for new possibilities of growth.

In 1947, our domestic airline carried 39000 passengers, and four years later the number was up to 91000. It was time to move on to bigger aircraft. The Convair CV-340 was selected as the new workhorse, and the Finns were the first ones in Europe to obtain this famous American aircraft for their use. This was a major gesture of trust to the Finnish airline and was duly noted all over the world.

Strength calculations and measurements were finally made to prove that the runways of Malmi Airport could not support aircraft bigger than the DC-3 in regular traffic. In 1952 Finnish Air Lines (former Aero) gradually began operations from the new Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Next year, all heavy traffic had already moved away from Malmi. In summer 1953, the name of our airline was once more changed; Finnair represented the dynamic new era with its modern Convairs. The airline had a marvellous means of conveying a positive image of our country all over the world. Maintenance and repair work of passenger aircraft continued at Malmi, as the new airport in Seutula was still lacking technical facilities. Malmi still provided jobs for hundreds of Finnair employees.

Yet another new era began in the many-sided history of Malmi Airport. As Finnair cut back Malmi's share of activity, it was augmented by private aviation. When in the early 60's there were only about twenty aircraft at Malmi and about 25000 take-offs and landings logged annually, ten years later the figures were already up to 120 aircraft and almost 130000 take-offs and landings.

For a moment, Malmi Airport rose back into the limelight in 1986 during a civil service strike. All of Finnair's domestic traffic was moved to Malmi for the duration of the strike. Fokker Friendships and the new ATR-42's transported satisfied customers all over Finland. Harmony made room for everyone, and the increased traffic of Malmi Airport was taken care of by the experienced air traffic controllers without interruptions.

Tattarisuo Today

The main runway 36-18 is nowadays 1400 meters long and the crossing runway 09-27 spans 1080 meters. The old 800-meter runways in the intermediate directions have been decommissioned. They are still there with their concrete slabs to remind of the past, but they are only used as taxiways. The old runways seem quite short for modern aircraft, telling a tale of the fast evolution of aviation. When the Airport was built, the runways were quite adequate for the needs and visions of aviation at that time.

The economic depression has cut the flight operations by almost half from the 1990 level. In 1990, there were more than 60000 take-offs and landings, and five years later the number was about 40000. The nature of the Airport has changed once again. Nowadays it is home to a number of enterprises specializing in taxi flights, pilot training, ad banner towing, aerial photography etc. Malmi is the liveliest center of general aviation in Finland with its helicopter training and all other flying operations. The Border Guard operates from the Airport, flying important surveillance operations over sea and border regions as well as liaison and transport flights to our difficult-to-reach archipelago. Based in their own building, the Border Guard keep up a full take-off readiness around the clock, equipped with modern Agusta Bell 412 and Agusta Bell 206 helicopters.

A rescue station of City of Helsinki operates in the fire brigade building rented from the Airport. From this rescue station operates also the special unit Lentopelastuskomennuskunta (LEKA Air Rescue Detachment) which uses the rescue helicopter operating from Malmi Airport. The unit has became more and more important because of, e.g., the increased number of rescue operations related to road traffic. It also has modern infrared cameras at its disposal. The Medi-Heli ambulance helicopter was until recently a permanent part of the many-sided services of the Airport.

The helicopter and the infrared camera used for searching missing persons.
The helicopter and the infrared camera used for searching missing persons.

Helicopters of the Air Force also visit Malmi often while taking care of their training, rescue and other assignments. Also the members of Parachuting Club of Finland with their colorful parachutes are a familiar sight in the sky over Malmi, as well as hot-air balloonists who visit every now and then. Hobby aviators of a number of clubs are regular users of Malmi Airport. Model airplane hobbyists visit the field in summertime, as do drag-racing enthusiasts in increasing numbers in the recent years. Tourists flying their private airplanes visit Malmi more and more often. Flying in a small aircraft across the Gulf of Finland to Estonia in summertime is so popular that passport control, handled by the Border Guard, has been made a permanent service at Malmi Airport.

Over the decades, the Airport has provided jobs for thousands of people. Numerous pilots have graduated from the flying schools to serve as professional pilots both our national airline and other airlines. Aircraft mechanics have also found a challenging profession in the constantly expanding field of aviation. At present, there are more than 100 permanent jobs and more than 50 part-time jobs at the Airport.

Division of Labor in the Airspace of Helsinki

The Allied Control Commission returned Malmi Airport to the Finns at the end of 1946, but reserved the right to use the airfield according to its needs. In 1986, the Airport was needed for a short time to serve passenger traffic during a civil service str
The Allied Control Commission returned Malmi Airport to the Finns at the end of 1946, but reserved the right to use the airfield according to its needs. In 1986, the Airport was needed for a short time to serve passenger traffic during a civil service str

Helsinki-Malmi Airport (the City Airport of Helsinki) is close to Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport. The world has changed a lot since the days when Malmi Airport was built. Naturally, taking care of both domestic and international passenger traffic is a job for Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, but both airports are needed also in the future. The present division of labor is natural.

A new location for an airfield has been searched for a long time, without success. Many questions arise: who will pay for the construction of a new airport meeting the standards of Malmi? What about the location? There is no sense in moving the activities and traffic of Malmi to Hyvinkää, Mäntsälä or Nummela. Would an airfield located far away in a different municipality or town serve Helsinki any more? A very popular nature path for joggers and bicyclists encircles Tattarisuo. The industrial area by the side of the Airport provides jobs for 1000 people.

The days when horror stories spread throughout the land about human fingers found in a spring on Tattarisuo are long gone. Some members of an extreme religious sect had brought fingers of dead people via Harju rail stop in Vallila to be used in rituals at the spring. The case was solved, the guilty were punished and the incident faded into a smudge on the yellowing pages of crime history. Present-day people of Malmi probably aren't interested in the matter, but it does give a certain emotional dimension and power to the topic of Tattarisuo.


The terminal of Malmi Airport is a typical example of the functionalist school of architecture. It is of great cultural value. The building was designed by architect Dag Englund. The Airport with its runways and buildings is historically nearly unique in all Europe. A similar complete 1930's airport milieu might not exist anywhere else in the world any more.

I wish all good things to Tattarisuo and Helsinki-Malmi Airport also in the future.

The first part of this article was published in Malmi Illustrated in 1996.

Pentti Salminen