Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Finnish Aviation Museum Helsinki-Vantaa


The Suomen Ilmailumuseo, or Finnish Aviation Museum, is located at Vantaa next to Helsinki' main international airport. It was opened in 1972 in the basement of the main terminal at Helsinki airport, but it moved to its own location in 1981.


The museum covers all aspects of the rich Finnish aviation history, civil aviation, military aviation, homebuilds, gliders, etc.


The first aspect I want to look at is military aviation. As the Finnish Military Aviation celebrated its centennial in 2018. During the early years Finland bought aircraft in a variety of countries, and in many cases these aircraft were then build locally under license. Oldest aircraft at Vantaa is a Ilmailuvoimien Lentokonetehtaala (I.V.L) A22 Hansa Brandenburg floatplane. Finland build between 1922 and 1926 120 of these aircraft under license from the original German designer Hansa-Brandenburg. It was the main aircraft in the Finnish Air Force in the 1920s and remained in service until 1936. The Caudron C60 was a two-seat training aircraft from French origin. Between 1923-1924 30 Caudrons were delivered from France and another 34 were build locally under license between 1926-1928. The Gloster Gamecock Mk.II is British biplane fighter that was in use in the period 1927-1944. The rear fuselage of Gamecock GA-58 at the museum is the only known major part in existence of this aircraft in the world. In this period also Czechoslovakia had a growing aviation industry and one of its products was the Letov S.218A Smolik. Also here an initial batch was delivered in 1929 direct from the factory and a second batch was build in Finland.

In the late thirties a number of more modern aircraft were obtained. Of this period the museum has a Russian Polikarpov I-16 type 14 (UTI-2) two-seater fighter-trainer. In fact this aircraft was captured from the Russians in the autumn of 1941 and it was put to use as an observation aircraft. Also Germany became a major supplier of aircraft with the Messerschmitt Bf109G-2 and the Fieseler Fi156K-1 Storch. Of the Bf109G alone 162 examples were used between 1943 and 1954. The wreckage of the museum Bf109G-2 was recovered from the sea in 1999.

While the Finnish aircraft factories were license building several foreign aircraft also a number of Finnish designers were busy developing their own aircraft. The Finnish engineer Boris Adaridi designed the Adiridi AD3 in the early 1920s. It was mainly used as a trials aircraft until 1931. The first Finnish aircraft that went into series production was the Valtion Lentokonetehdas (VL = State Aircraft Factory) Sääski floatplane. A total of 39 were build, with the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) being the biggest customer with 34 aircraft. VL also designed the Tuisko ('Snowstorm'), a two-seater trainer of which 31 were used by the Ilmavoimat between 1930 and 1950. Another trainer designed and build by VL was the Viima II, it was used as a basic trainer between 1935-1960 after which several ended up on the civilian market. The Viima II at the museum is still wearing its civilian color scheme. Only a few months before the start of the Second World War the VL Pyry took to the air for the first time. The Pyry was two-seat fighter-trainer and remained in service until 1962, it 1972 it was one of the first aircraft brought to the museum.

After the Second World War like many other countries Finland entered the jet age. In 1953 the Ilmavoimat acquired a small quantity of De Havilland Vampire FB.52 fighter-bombers from the United Kingdom, followed in 1955 by a number of Vampire T.55 two-seaters. The first supersonic fighter in Finnish service was the Mikoyan-Gurevitch MiG21 Fishbed that first entered service in 1963 and that came from their neighbor the Soviet Union. The example at Vantaa is one of the later variants, a MiG21bis that was in service between 1978 and 1998. Their other neighbor, Sweden, supplied a number of Saab 35DS Draken fighters in the early seventies. A few decades earlier Saab already had supplied a number of Saab 91D Safir trainers. The Soviet Union was not only a supplier of fighters but also a number of helicopter types arrived in Finland. Two examples are on display at Vantaa, the first a WSK SM1-600Sz (a Polish-build Mil Mi1A) and the larger a Mil Mi4, which both arrived with the Ilmavoimat in the early 1960s.

As already mentioned the museum also dedicates a lot of attention to non-military aspects of aviation. It has an impressive collection of gliders that came from several European countries. From Germany I noted a Schneider Grunau 9, a Schneider-Hofmann-Rehberg SG38 Schulgleiter, a Kassel 12A and a Schneider Grunau Baby II. From Poland a SZD10 bis is on display.

The success of gliding also stimulated Finnish engineers to design and build aircraft, so it's no surprise that several of these are on display. The first one is the Fibera KK1a Utu that made its first flight in 1964 and of which 22 were build. The most successful Finnish builder of gliders was Polyteknikkojen Ilmailukerho, better known as PIK. On display I saw the following versions : PIK5b (1946), PIK7 Harakka II (1952) PIK10 motorglider (1949), PIK3a (1950) , PIK12 the only two-seater designed in Finland (1965) and a PIK20 (1973). The PIK11 Tumppu aircraft was designed as a diploma thesis work at the Helsinki University of Technology. Four examples of this small single seater sport plane were build.

For the enthusiasts of small aircraft the museum at Vantaa is a real 'Wonderland'. Several examples are on display, many of them unique designs. The Blomqvist & Nybers Monoplane was the first experimental aircraft build in Finland that made its first flight in 1926. The second one is the Heinonen HK1 Keltiäinen from 1954, followed by the Eklund TE1b a small amphibian aeroplane that made a first flight in 1949. Also from 1949 is the Karhumäki Karhu 48B, a four seat tourist-type aeroplane, unfortunately only two prototypes were build. In 1956 the brothers Kokkola started designing aerogyros and their fourth design, the Kokkola Ko4 'Super Upstart' made a first flight in 1968, in the end only one example was build.

Apart from these Finnish designs also a series of more commonly known types are on show at Vantaa. Oldest aircraft in this category is a Klemm L25d, a German designed two seat sportsplane. More modern sportsplanes are a Beech 95-A55 Baron and a Piper PA28R-180 Cherokee. For the heavier transport and observation work the Finnish Sea Guard (and later the Border Guard) acquired a number of De Havilland Canada DHC2 Beavers from Canada. One of the first Finnish airlines, Kar Air, acquired a couple of Lockheed L18-56 Lodestars and used them on their regular services. A third example was used by Kar Air for geological survey flights and this example is now preserved at Vantaa. For the more popular destinations Kar Air used the Douglas DC3A-214. This DC3A is one of the oldest surviving examples of the type, it was build in 1937. A second DC3C, this time in the colors of Finnish Airlines, can be found outside the museum. It is a former Finnish Air Force machine. The last aircraft in this row is a Convair Cv440 Metropoliton that entered service with Aero Oy in 1953, Aero Oy is now known under the name Finnair.

As you can see in this report the museum had a wide variety of aircraft and helicopters on display, many of them are unique designs that only can be found in Finland and even at this location. Getting there is really easy as it is in walking distance of the Helsinki-Vantaa's main terminal and when you arrive by car there is a large parking area. Virtually all the aircraft are kept indoors, the harsh Finnish winter climate does not allow to display these aircraft outside. Both hangars are quite full which makes photography quite challenging sometimes, but this is part of the fun.


Text & Photography : Laurent Heyligen