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Lakes and sheltered seas assisted the development of Finland’s airways before aerodromes were provided


SEAPLANES OR AEROPLANES FITTED WITH SKIS were used for early services in Finland

SEAPLANES OR AEROPLANES FITTED WITH SKIS were used for early services in Finland. The difficult climatic conditions with which the pilots had to deal were to some extent compensated for by the large number of lakes—there are said to be 63,000 in the country. The numerous small islands off the coast also provide sheltered water which freezes smooth in the winter. The aircraft illustrated in this picture is a Junkers three-engined monoplane.

IN conditions far different from those in the major countries of Europe, the internal air routes of Finland are being developed. They will open an aviation corridor to the Arctic Ocean to link with the international routes that now end at Helsinki (formerly known under its Swedish name of Helsingfors). Many difficulties of climate and topography have been overcome by the Finns in their efforts, first to establish services connecting with neighbouring countries, and then to provide internal air services.

Finland extends from the Baltic Sea to the Arctic Ocean, the extreme length of the country being 717 miles and the greatest breadth 370 miles. The country is bounded on the south by the Gulf of Finland, on the west by the Gulf of Bothnia, Sweden and Norway, and on the east by Soviet Russia. In the extreme north Finnish territory narrows to a strip of land between Norway and Russia. This strip of land reaches the Arctic Ocean at a point where, because of the influence of warm currents, the sea does not freeze in winter. Petsamo, in this district, is a fishing village marked out for advancement. Here a site for an aerodrome has been surveyed with the intention of making it the terminus of an air route.

One company, the Aero Company, operates the external and internal air services, the headquarters being in Helsinki. Helsinki,“the White City of the North”, is the most northern capital in the world, and has 272,400 inhabitants. It lies on the Gulf of Finland, opposite Tallinn (Reval), the capital of Estonia, and is the terminus of two international air routes, one of which, from Germany and Poland, reaches it through Tallinn, and the other, from Great Britain and Scandinavia, through Stockholm via Turku (Abo), the Finnish port on the Gulf of Bothnia.

British connexion with Finnish aviation began in 1919 when the flying boat E5-N90 flew to Helsinki. The machine left Felixstowe on July 19 and flew to Copenhagen. On the following day she flew to Tallinn; she arrived at Helsinki on July 21, and made a number of demonstration flights in Finland. This marked the beginning of cordial relations between the two countries in military and civil aviation.

In the spring of 1918, after the declaration of Finland’s independence, a number of Finns were sent to Germany to be trained in flying schools, and others were later sent to France. These men formed the nucleus from which the Finnish Air Force was developed.

The establishment of contact with Great Britain enabled Finnish officers to visit Royal Air Force establishments and aircraft works. Among these officers were Colonel V. Vuori and Colonel Solin. A British officer was lent to Finland to advise on the training of personnel.

The Aero Company was founded late in 1923 and at first arranged with Estonia for the establishment of a service between Helsinki and Tallinn. In winter, when the harbours were icebound and communication by ship between the two ports was not possible, aircraft were able to land on the ice. In summer floats were fitted and the machines were used as seaplanes.

When the harbours were freezing over or thawing, it was not possible to use the machines, as there was not sufficient ice-free water to enable floatplanes to avoid the risk of damage, and the ice was not thick enough to support the weight of a landplane. Moreover the lack of an aerodrome hampered all-the-year-round flying.

Aviation in Finland owes much to the Air Defence League, which was founded to foster aviation in all its branches. The League promoted an air display held on the ice of Helsinki Harbour in March 1927. This display was modelled on the British pageant at Hendon, and included aerobatics, formation flying, making a smoke screen, destruction of a balloon, the bombing of a “village” and air fighting. In addition to British and Dutch machines flown by the Finnish military pilots, a single-seat fighter designed and built in Finland was shown.

Another display in the following year showed a variety of machines, including Martinsyde F4, Gloster Gamecock II, Avro 504 and Moth machines.

The first Finnish International Aeronautical Exhibition, which was held at Helsinki in the summer of 1929, attracted exhibits from Great Britain, Italy, Germany, France and the United States. The period from then until the second Finnish International Aeronautical Exhibition, which was opened in May 1938, covers the modern development of Finnish aviation in every branch.

As the Finns are among the world’s finest woodworkers and as timber is one of the country’s main resources, full use of suitable plywood has been made at the State Aircraft Factory, which is at Tampere (Tammerfors). Tampere is the largest manufacturing town in Finland, with a population of about 60,000.

Streamlined plywood floats are made to fit to various machines. Wooden wings fabric-covered, are a feature of the machines built at the factory, although there is modern plant for building metal machines.

The Viima two-seat light school biplane has a fuselage and tail of welded chrome-molybdenum steel tube construction with fabric covering, the wing structure consisting of spars, with plywood ribs and tubular steel drag struts. The aircraft has a 150 horse-power Siemens Sh.14A air-cooled engine.

Another training biplane is the Tuisku T, used as a landplane or a seaplane for all training purposes including gunnery, bombing, photography and navigation. The engine is either an Armstrong Siddeley Lynx of 215 horse-power or a 240 horse-power Lycoming R-680-BA. The Fokker C.10 general purpose biplane, powered by a Bristol Pegasus engine, and the Fokker D.21 single-seat fighter are built under licence.

Aircraft built in Great Britain and used by the Finnish Air Force comprise Bristol Blenheim, Avro Anson, Moth, Blackburn Ripon IIF, Gloster Gamecock II and Bristol Bulldog IVA. Bristol Mercury and Pegasus engines have a high reputation and are now built under licence by an engineering firm at Tampere.

The severity of the winter in Finland, where temperatures of —22° Fahrenheit occur in the north, caused attention to be paid to engine-heating devices for easy starting. Streamlined skis were designed to offer as little resistance in flight as possible.

The climatic difficulties were to some extent compensated for by the number of lakes — there are said to be 63,000 lakes in the country — and by the number of islands off the coast which provide shelter from rough water in summer and smooth ice in winter.

The first major civil customs aerodrome, the airport at Turku (Abo), was opened in September 1935. The airport is three miles west of the city. Its dimensions are 711 yards by 875 yards, and it has a grass surface, with runways of rolled gravel. There are a weather station and a radio station. Facilities for landing at night include flood, boundary and obstruction lights.

PRESENT AND PROJECTED FINNISH AIR ROUTESThe aerodrome lies on the international route to Sweden, the distance across the sea to Stockholm being 168 miles, and to Helsinki 94 miles. Turku has nearly 70,000 inhabitants and is the oldest town in Finland; formerly it was the capital.

PRESENT AND PROJECTED FINNISH AIR ROUTES. Helsinski is served by two international routes, one of which comes from Germany and Poland and reaches Helsinki via Tallinn. The other route comes from Great Britain and Scandinavia through Stockholm and Turku, the Finnish port on the Gulf of Bothnia.

Although the aerodrome at Helsinki was first used at the end of 1936, the opening ceremony was reserved for the occasion of the Exhibition of May 1938. The aerodrome is seven miles north-east of the capital and has four pressed gravel runways each 875 yards long, part of the runways being tarred. There are weather and radio stations. There are two separate blind-approach beams at right angles to each other, the provision of two beams being a precaution to ensure safety during the long winter. Special arrangements are made to keep the temperature in the hangar above freezing point in winter; the building is insulated against the cold and equipment is provided to heat the engines of aircraft. The reinforced concrete terminal building is circular and houses the staff. In addition to the booking hall, waiting rooms and restaurant, there is accommodation for pilots.

Helsinki aerodrome and that at Turku have enabled the international routes to be operated safely at all seasons. The lack of aerodromes elsewhere hindered the opening of regularly flown internal routes until the summer of 1937, when experimental services were introduced. One service was from Helsinki to Viipuri (Viborg), a city of 72,000 inhabitants, near the head of the Gulf of Finland. At Viipuri temporary use was made of the military aerodrome; about 700 passengers were carried on this route.

On another experimental service between Helsinki and Tampere about 750 passengers were flown.

In the summer of 1938 the Helsinki-Viipuri service was resumed, the flight being scheduled to occupy an hour. An aerodrome with direction-finding facilities was laid out at Tampere, another at Vaasa, a port on the Gulf of Bothnia, and a Helsinki-Tampere-Vaasa service was put into operation. The morning machine was scheduled to fly from Helsinki to Tampere in fifty minutes and from Tampere to Vaasa in an hour.

On the route to Sweden the Aero machine from Helsinki reaches Turku in fifty minutes and Stockholm in one hour and twenty-five minutes from Turku. A fifteen minutes halt is made at Turku.

The flight from Helsinki to Tallinn occupies thirty-five minutes ; the liner has to make a detour to avoid a prohibited zone south of the Finnish capital. Air liners of the Swedish company serve the route to Sweden and also that to Esthonia. German and Polish machines cooperate in this service with the Aero Company.

The machines used by the company on the international routes are two Junkers Ju 52, each powered by three engines. A De Havilland twin-engined Dragon Rapide was used for the experimental services with such success that a second machine has been bought. The original Dragon was fitted with skis during the winter to survey other experimental routes. The radio equipment enabled the aeroplane to be flown over difficult country and to maintain communication with the ground. Formerly the two Junkers were floatplanes, but after the completion of the two airports they were fitted with wheels.

The reliability and economy of the Dragon Rapide have aided the beginning of the internal services. Aerodromes are being prepared so that the services can extend. A site has been laid out at Joensuu, a town of 6,000 inhabitants, on Lake Pielis. The services linking the cities and ports in the south of Finland serve the needs of commercial and business passengers, but the tourist traffic, the advantages of which are appreciated, is also included in the plans for developing civil aviation.

The timber port of Oulu (Uleaborg), far up the Gulf of Bothnia, is the southern base of the railway and road routes that lead to the Arctic Ocean. A site for an aerodrome has been laid out at Oulu. Farther along the route a landing ground has been inspected at Kemi, a wood-working town almost at the head of the Gulf of Bothnia. From this point the projected air route goes north to one of the newest towns in Europe, Rovaniemi.

The landing area of the aerodrome at Helsinki

FOUR PRESSED GRAVEL RUNWAYS are incorporated in the landing area of the aerodrome at Helsinki. The aerodrome is seven miles north-east of the capital and was first used at the end of 1936. The runways are 875 yards long and part of each is tarred. Two separate blind approach radio beams are provided at right angles to each other to ensure a safe approach in all conditions.

Rovaniemi has a population of 6,000 and is three miles south of the Arctic Circle. Called “the Gateway of the North”, Rovaniemi lies on a railway. The town is the key to Finnish Lapland, and is the trading post and centre for a large area. An hotel caters for winter sports visitors and summer tourists.

Helsinki is now within easy reach of other capitals. The British Airways Viking Royal Mail Express, flown by Lockheed Electra machines, carries passengers from Heston, Middlesex, to Stockholm in about eight hours to connect with the service to Helsinki. The route from Germany by way of the eastern side of the Baltic provides access from the Continental capitals.

The Finns have been enterprising in the development of air mail, and since 1928 all letters to other countries have been flown without surcharge. The Air Defence League has tens of thousands of members. Some of the affiliated associations own light aircraft, prominent among the types being the De Havilland Moth.

Finnish civil aviation is more vigorous than that in the Baltic States to the south. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have no national air lines, as the countries are small, but they are on the international air route and are served by modern air liners.

Ulemiste, the military and civil customs aerodrome serving the Estonian capital of Tallinn, is two and a half miles from the city on the shore of Lake Ulemiste. There is a slipway for seaplanes, and the grass surface for aeroplanes measures 700 by 788 yards. There are weather and radio stations and facilities for landing at night. Pilots are not allowed to land at this or any other Estonian aerodrome without having previously obtained permission.

There are military aerodromes at Tartu and Rakvere, the main aerodrome of the Estonian Air Defence Force being the one at Ulemiste. Most of the military aircraft are British, and comprise Bristol Bulldog and Hawker Hart machines. Avro and Siskin machines are used for training.

The next stop on the international route is at Spilve, the military and civil customs aerodrome which serves Riga, the capital of Latvia. The aerodrome, which measures 875 by 766 yards, adjoins the city and is five miles from the Gulf of Riga. Other military aerodromes are at Daugavpils, Krustpils and Rezekne, the aircraft including Avro, Fairey Seal and B.F.W. Flamingo machines.

Squadron's 6,000 Miles Flight

South from Riga there are two international routes. One, operated by D.L.H., is to Kaunas (Kovno), the capital of Lithuania; the other, flown by the Polish company called L.O.T., to Wilno (Vilna) in Poland.

Kaunas has a military and civil customs aerodrome about a mile southwest of the city, the dimensions being 1,450 by 1,075 yards. The distance to Riga is 145 miles. Military aerodromes at Klaipeda (Memel) and Siauliai may be used by civil aircraft.

The Lithuanian Air Force has workshops where Anbo monoplanes are built. The largest of this type, a reconnaissance monoplane, is driven by a 600 horse-power Bristol Pegasus. A training machine has a 185 horse-power Curtiss Challenger engine and two instructional machines are powered respectively by a 140 horse-power Genet-Major and a 150 horse-power Mongoose engine. In 1934 Lieut.-Colonel Gustaitis, the designer of Lithuanian military aircraft, led a squadron of three machines on a flight of over 6,000 miles round Europe. The flight was carried out without any trouble.

From Kaunas the D.L.H. route is to Konigsberg in East Prussia, 133 miles distant, and thence to Danzig and Berlin. The Polish route from Riga avoids Lithuanian territory and goes to Wilno, the Polish town east of the Lithuanian capital of Kaunas, and then turns south-west to Warsaw. There was no means of transport between Lithuania and Poland from the formation of Lithuania until, in 1938, it was decided to open communications between the two countries.

The Riga-Wilno route of 210 miles is circuitous because of various prohibited areas.

Prohibited areas and special regulations tend to restrict civil aviation in these three States, but the interest in gliding and light aircraft is keen.

THE OFFICIAL OPENING of the Helsinki aerodrome

THE OFFICIAL OPENING of the Helsinki aerodrome took place in May 1938, although it had been in use since 1936. In this photograph the circular, reinforced concrete terminal building is shown. Special arrangements are available for maintaining the hangar temperature above freezing point in the winter, and equipment is provided to heat engines before they are started. Helsinki aerodrome, with the aerodrome at Turku, has enabled international routes to be operated with safety in all weathers.

You can read more on “Aviation in Sweden”, “Norway’s Airways” and “Germany’s Air Lines” on this website.

Finland’s Airways: East of the Baltic