Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Tikkakoski, Finland
The second museum that I visited on my trip to Finland in June 2018 was the Suomen Ilmailumuseo, or the Finnish Air Force Museum, that is located in Tikkakoski next to the airbase. In 2018 the Finnish Air Force, or Ilmavoimat, celebrated its 100th Anniversary and a visit to the museum gives you an excellent overview of its history.
The French Morane-Saulnier Type L was build under license in Sweden as the Thulin Typ D between 1915-1918. The Swedish count Erik von Rosen bought one of these aircraft and donated it to the Finnish White Army. For good luck he a painted blue 'Hakaristi' (or Swastika) insignias on the fuselage of the aircraft and this was adopted as the official Finnish Air Force insignia.
The original Thulin Typ D 'F1' crashed in 1918, but a replica now opens the exhibition when you arrive in the museum. However a second Typ D (F3) is currently under restoration on site.
One of the first military aircraft that entered service in Finland in 1919 was the Breguet 14.A2. It was developed during World War One and remained in production until 1928, when a total of 7800 examples had been build. In the years after the war it was in use with several European countries and Finland was one of them, with a total of 30 in service in the bomber and reconnaissance role. The next French aircraft that entered service in 1923 was the French Gourdou-Lesseure GL.22 'Gurduu'. The example in Tikkakoski is from the original batch and remained in service until 1931. Also in 1923 Finland acquired in the United Kingdom a Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard for evaluation, in 1927 a batch of 14 additional aircraft were acquired.
In the 1930s a fairly large amount of new aircraft types started arriving in the Ilmavoimat. In 1936 they ordered an initial batch of seven Fokker D.XXI directly from the factory in the Netherlands together with a license to build another 14. This was later changed to an unlimited manufacturing license with a total of 90 aircraft build locally. During the Finnish-Russian Winter War ( 30th November 1939-13th March 1940) the Fokker D.XXI was the main fighter type in service with 141 aerial victories. 15 months later, during the Continuation War (Finland and Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union) the Fokker D.XXI was used for reconnaissance and ground attack, but nevertheless an additional 60 aerial victories were made. Another type ordered in 1936 was the Bristol Blenheim Mk.I bomber, with 18 coming directly from the United Kingdom and a license contract for another 24 examples. The aircraft in the museum is a Blenheim Mk.IV, a batch of 24 was acquired directly from the UK during the Winter War. In addition to these 24 Blenheims Finland also acquired 12 Hawker Hurricane I from the UK in this period, but they arrived too late to participate in the conflict. The Hurricane was not a very big success in Finland mainly because of problems with the spare-parts supply from the UK, as this country needed the parts for its own aircraft.
The following aircraft was my personal highlight during my Finland trip. The Brewster Model 239 Buffalo was originally build for the US Navy but was declared surplus very quickly and 44 of them were sold to Finland. During the Continuation War it proved to be an excellent fighter with hundreds of aerial victories. Buffalo BW-372 is currently the only one left in the world, it was recovered in 1998 from a lake in East-Karelia and it became the property of the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola in the United States. The story on its recovery and how it finally ended up at Pensacola can be a great scenario of a future James Bond film. Currently the aircraft is on long term loan to the museum in Tikkakoski.
Even during the Second World War new types continued to arrive in Finland and one of these was this Messerschmitt Bf109G-6Y. A total of 164 were ordered and started arriving from 1943 onwards, although not all of them were delivered. The last flight of a Bf109G in the Ilmavoimat was made in 1954. The Bf109G was not the first aircraft from Germany as already in 1940 they bought 30 Focke-Wulf Fw44J Stieglitz trainers, that remained in service until 1960. Despite buying several foreign types also the local industry developed a number of fighter aircraft. One of these is Valtion Lentokonetehdas (VL) Myrsky II. It was designed in 1939, but series production only started in 1943 with first deliveries in 1944. In 2013 a project was kicked off to restore a Myrsky II and the aircraft, MY-14, is expected to be ready for display in 2019. Another local design by VL is the Pyörremyrsky. It resembles very strongly the Messerschmitt Bf109. Unfortunately the aircraft never made it beyond the prototype stage and only two were build. PM-1 was withdrawn from use 1947 after only 27 hours of flying time in 31 flights. A third local type is the Valmet Vihuri II. It was developed as a training aircraft in the early 1950s and a total of 51 were produced between 1951-1957. Unfortunately a series accidents quickened its withdrawal from service in 1959. VH-18 is the only complete aircraft left, as all the remaining were scrapped.
In 1945 another major change took place in the Ilmavoimat. The 'Hakaristi' disappeared from the aircraft and was replace by a more traditional roundel. By its use in Germany as the symbol for the Nazi regime the Swastika had a very negative image and the Finns thought it was wise to replace it with a more 'neutral' design.
The first jet fighter acquired by Finland was the De Havilland Vampire. Only a small quantity was bought in two versions, six Mk.52 single-seat and nine Mk.55 two-seaters. The Mk.52s were in service between 1953-1963 and the Mk.55 from 1955-1965. The Mk.55 was also the first aircraft in Finland fitted with an ejection seat, and the first ejection occurred on July 29th, 1958 when Vampire VT-4 was lost in an accident near Puuppola. In 1958 the first of 13 Folland Gnat Mk.1s arrived in Finland, 11 fighters and 2 reconnaissance aircraft. The Gnat was responsible for the first supersonic flight in Flight, when on July31st, 1958 a Gnat reached Mach 1 in a dive. The museum at Tikkakoski has two aircraft on display, one inside and one as a gate-guard mounted on a platform. The Gnats remained in service until 1972. Finland was one of the first customers for the Fouga CM170-2 Magister. Between 1958 and 1988 a total of 80 were acquired in several batches. Many of these still fly as 'warbirds' across the world, including two examples in Finland that we saw displaying during the Airshow at Tikkakoski.
In the sixties Finland acquired several aircraft types from their big neighbor the Soviet Union. Starting with a couple of second-hand Ilyushin IL28s in 1960-1961, followed by another two in 1966. These included two different types, one standard Il28 bomber and three Il28R reconnaissance aircraft. Mainly used as target-tugs, they were also used for aerial cartography, maritime surveillance and reconnaissance and for atmospheric sampling flights. The last flight of a Finnish Il28, done by serial number NH-3, was on June 30th, 1981. In 1962 Finland acquired four Mikoyan-Gurevitch MiG15UTI jet trainers, that were used to bridge the gap between the Fouga and the Mikoyan-Gurevitch MiG21 fighter. The MiG15 was not well suited for this purpose and only used very limitedly. The MiG21 was ordered in multiple versions by the Finnish Air Force. The first type that entered service in 1963 was the MiG21F-13, when the first of 22 arrived. The MiG21F-13 was one of the first production versions of the MiG21, but also the last version the MiG21bis was used by the Ilmavoimat. The first arrived in 1978 and remained in service until 1998, when it was replaced by the McDonnell Douglas F/A18C Hornet, the current front-line fighter of the Finnish Air Force. To train the MiG21bis pilots also four MiG21UM were acquired and was used until 1999.
The second fighter-type that was used from the early 1970s onwards was the Swedish Saab Draken. Several versions were in use over the years. The Draken 35S (DK-223) was in fact already the second version used, 12 were assembled by Valmet in Halli in 1974-1975 and used in the interceptor role until 2000. The first 6 second-hand Draken FSs (DK-241) were bought from Sweden in 1976, a second batch of 18 followed in 1984. Also these were used as interceptors until 2000. To train all their Draken-pilots Finland also bought a small number of the two-seat Draken 35CS trainer. A total of 5 were bought over the years and DK-270 is now on display outside the museum at Tikkakoski.
We already saw several jet types from the Soviet Union in this museum, but they also have a trio of helicopters from the same source. In Vantaa we saw a WSK SM-1/600 (a Polish-build Mil Mi1), but the museum at Tikkakoski has a 'real' Mil Mi1 on display. Only one Mi1 was delivered to the Finnish Border Guard in 1960 and was used until 1968. Between 1962-1979 the Ilmavoimat used three Mil Mi4 medium transport helicopters. They were also used for maritime rescue, ambulance flights and a large variety of lifting operations. All three are still preserved in Finland, HR-1 at Tikkakoski, the wreck of HR-2 at the Karelia Aviation Museum and HR-3 at Vantaa. In 1973 the first of 10 Mil Mi8 arrived in Finland. Two versions were used, the Mi8T for transport duties (with round cabin windows) and the Mi8S (with square windows) for passenger duties. The last flight of the Mi8 was in 2010.
Finally I want to mention a real aviation 'classic' that is preserved at Tikkakoski. Taking center spot in the museum is a beautifully restored Douglas C47A Dakota. In the Finnish Air Force the first ones only arrived in 1960 and a total of 9 were acquired until 1970. The last operational flight of the C47 in the Finnish Air Force was in 1983, but most of them were sold for a new life in the civilian world. DO-4 however was kept for preservation at Tikkakoski.
The Finnish Air Museum at Tikkakoski is one of the finest museum I ever visited. It's collection contains many rare and unique aircraft. Photography can be a bit challenging, especially in one corner were the lighting is not really ideal. Most of the aircraft are kept inside, only a handful of aircraft are on outside display, but as it seems only during the summer months. Getting there is a bit of a drive, as it is located about 300 kilometers North of Helsinki, but it's certainly worth it. There are several routes towards Tikkakoski, I took the longer one getting there and the shorter one back to the airport, so that I could enjoy as much as possible of the stunning Finnish countryside. Some of the pictures in this report were taken outside the museum, as some of the aircraft were temporarily moved to the display area for the Airshow the following weekend, but as far as I know all of them are now back in their original locations in the museum.
Text & Photography : Laurent Heyligen