Most of us in the West might not immediately consider Finland when trying to think of a nation both rich in aviation heritage and boasting a world-class array of rare vintage military aircraft. However, you would be mistaken not to place Finland high on the list of must-see aviation experiences. The country’s museums boast some of the rarest aircraft anywhere, including the world’s only complete examples of the Gloster Gauntlet biplane fighter, Fokker D.XXI, Bristol Blenheim Mk.IV (not to be confused with the Canadian-built Bolingbroke), Caudron C.59, and Brewster Buffalo to name just a few. There are of course many other interesting types represented across the nation, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109, Hawker Hurricane, and the even rarer Douglas DC-2. This is not to ignore the diverse array of rare or even unique indigenous military aircraft types on display in Finland.
If you wish to take in this amazing array of aviation history, set within a country of magnificent beauty, but are a little intimidated by the idea of planning it alone, then you are in luck as Ian Allan Aviation Tours will be taking a group of fellow aviation enthusiasts around the nation’s military aviation hotspots this June. Ian Allan Aviation Tours is the world’s premier aviation-minded tour operator, ‘lead by aviation enthusiasts for aviation enthusiasts’, and WarbirdsNews is proud to have them as a sponsor. The company has an enviable reputation, and has been in business for several decades now. They already have a diverse array of tours scheduled for 2018, enough to cover almost any aviation fan’s favorite subjects (Check HERE to see the 2018 list).
The Finnish Air Force is celebrating the 100th anniversary of their origins in 2018. While they didn’t become an independent air arm until 1928, their formation as the Finnish Army Air Corps dates to March 6th, 1918. Ian Allan’s tour of Finland this summer is in honor of this significant anniversary, and will definitely be flavored by the celebrations across the nation. The trip begins on June 10th with a departure flight to Helsinki from Gatwick Airport in London, England, and ends nine days later with a flight back to London on June 18th. The preliminary itinerary is as follows, but be sure to check with Ian Allan directly for any potential updates…
PROVISIONAL ITINERARY (all times local)
DAY 1: SUNDAY, 10th JUNE
Flight Out: London Gatwick, South Terminal – Flight: D8 367 – Departs: 10:20
Helsinki Arrives: 15:10
On arrival we board our chartered coach and drive to the western suburb of Jatkasaari. On the roof of the Verkkokauppa shop is an ex-Finnish Air Force MiG-21bis!
We then continue into the city centre and check in at the Sokos Hotel Albert for 2 nights on a bed and breakfast basis. Along with the “Papa Albert” Italian restaurant, this smoke-free hotel has a bar/lounge, coffee shop/café, free wi-fi in public areas, a sauna, and coffee/tea in a common area.
The hotel is located in the trendy Punavuori area which is the design and bohemian district and only a 10-minutes walk from shops, restaurants and the city’s night life. Closer to the hotel are small local restaurants, bars and shops.
It’s quick and easy to travel around Helsinki on the city’s tram network: the nearest tram stop is only a 2-minutes’ walk away.
Also a short walk away is the tram stop for the famous “Spårakoff Pub Tram” (see right). This bright red streetcar-come-mobile pub travels through the city with up to 30 passengers and unlimited reserves of Koff beer. With regular departures, it’s a great way to see the city since the route takes in most major downtown sights, including Linnanmäki, Töölö Bay and the Olympic Stadium … and yes, there is a toilet on board!
DAY 2: MONDAY, 11th JUNE
A free day to enjoy as you wish.
We have confirmation of an optional 30-minutes sightseeing flight around Helsinki in the well-known, and beautifully preserved, “Airveteran” DC-3 (pictured below) for approximately £96.00 per person: please annotate your booking form if interested. Places are limited to 19.
Helsinki Airport has a scenic terrace with great views of runways 1 and 2 as well as the apron area. There is an outside and inside terrace. The interior terrace has a soft drinks vending machine, a photo exhibition of Helsinki Airport past and present, as well as information displays for arrivals and departures. It is located approximately 160 yards from Terminal 2 on top of the blue glass office building and can be reached on foot from the Arrivals 2B exit of Terminal 2, through a covered walkway towards the Hilton Hotel, and by following the windsock signs. Transfers are not included in the tour price.
Various sightseeing tours can be booked in the hotel. A leisurely way to get around and see as much as you want is to take the ‘hop on, hop off’ bus which runs frequently throughout the day.
DAY 3: TUESDAY, 12th JUNE
Departing the hotel at 09:15, it’s a 40-minutes drive to the huge collection of aircraft in the fabulous Suomen Ilmailumuseo Flygmuseum – the Finnish Aviation Museum. A tour of their restoration and storage facilities has been requested (to be confirmed).
Continuing north we arrive in Tuusua, home of the Anti-Aircraft Museum which has one aircraft on display: a very rare Bell P-39Q Aircobra (pictured below).
We stay tonight in the seaside town of Kotka at the Original Sokos Hotel Seurahuone, ideally located right in the city centre, on Kotkansaari Island, surrounded by the sea. Breakfast is included. Its on-site facilities include 2 restaurants, a sauna and gym. Wi-Fi is complimentary and is available throughout the hotel.
DAY 4: WEDNESDAY, 13th JUNE
Leaving the hotel at 09:45 we set off for the nearby Karhula Flying Club and Museum: its excellent collection of 19 aircraft includes an immaculate, flying Gloster Gauntlet II (see page 1). They also have a restoration facility.
After a stop for lunch (at your own expense), we arrive in Lapeenranta and look around the Kaakkois-Suomen Ilmailumuseoyhdistys. Its collection of prop and jet aircraft includes a replica of the Finnish Air Force’s first fighter type, a Nieuport (pictured below).
Tonight we stay at the Cumulus City Lappeenranta Hotel on a bed and breakfast basis. Located right next to Lappeenranta’s main street, Kauppakatu, this hotel provides free swimming pool and sauna access, as well as a popular breakfast buffet. All rooms include 1 GB internet free of charge.
DAY 5: THURSDAY, 14th JUNE
At 08:30 we are on our way to Utti, an hours drive away. On display adjacent to the ex-air force airbase (now used by the army to train Finnish Special Forces), are 3 aircraft: a Moraine Saulnier, An-2 and, pictured below, a Bf 109G!
Continuing for another 30-minutes we arrive in Lahti and the Päijänne Tavastia Aviation Museum. Another amazing collection: 30+ aircraft including the sole surviving Blackburn Ripon! Other classics include a Caudron C.59, a couple of D.H. Vampires, a Folland Gnat, Fouga Magister, Saab Draken, a MiG-15, two MiG-21s and lots more.
We make a brief stop for lunch (at your own expense) in Lahti.
Then its on to Tuulonen to see the famous “Hanssin-Jukka Douglas DC-2”! Assembled by Fokker at Schiphol, the aircraft was delivered to KLM in April 1935 before going on to the Finnish Air Force in January 1940 with serial DC-1, later DO-1. It was withdrawn from use in June 1955 and used as a cafeteria in Hämeenlinna from 1959 to 1981. After many years in storage it was restored at Jyväskylä Tikkakoski airport during 2010 and 2011 and in June 2015 it was moved to the Tuulonen shopping mall near Tuulos where it has been on public display ever since.
Mid-afternoon we arrive in Halli for our visit to the Lentotekniikan Kilta Aviation Museum. There are about 10 aircraft in the collection including a Bristol Bulldog IV. We have asked to see any aircraft in storage.
Around 18:00 we arrive in Jamsa, a few miles outside of Halli, and check into the Hotel Jamsa, staying one night on a bed and breakfast basis. Located 2 kms from the town centre (there is a bus stop right outside the hotel), the hotels facilities include a restaurant, sauna and a swimming pool. The Pikis Bar serves beer, cider and soft drinks and has photographs of legendary rally drivers and authentic special items donated by the drivers.
DAY 6: FRIDAY, 15th JUNE
Departing the hotel at 08:30, 90-minutes later we arrive in Tikkakoski, home of the Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo – the Finnish Air Force Museum with dozens and dozens of aircraft on display.
Again we will ask to see any aircraft currently undergoing restoration or in storage.
During our visit a snack-type lunch (at your own expense) can be enjoyed in the Museum’s café.
At approximately 14:00 we arrive on the perimeter of Jyvaskyla airbase, venue of the 100th Anniversary of the Finnish Air Force Airshow. Aircraft taking part in the static display and flying programme will be arriving today and we await any details of special ramp access for aviation photographers. If there is no on-base access then we take up position off-base, at the landing end of the runway.
We stay the next 2 nights on a bed and breakfast basis at the newly opened Solo Sokos Hotel Paviljonki located in the centre of Jyvaskyla. Facilities include a restaurant, bar and free Wi-Fi.
DAYS 7 & 8: SATURDAY, 16th & SUNDAY, 17th JUNE
Each morning we depart the hotel at 08:00 (maybe earlier depending on road traffic) for 2 full days at the 100th Anniversary of the Finnish Air Force Airshow.
Confirmation of any special arrangements for photographers and optional “VIP” upgrade with exclusive viewing area and lunch are awaited from the organisers. Please annotate your booking form if interested.
We depart for the hotel after the day’s flying programme has ended.
DAY 9: MONDAY, 18th JUNE
At 11:00 we begin our journey south, back to Helsinki Airport; during the 3-hours drive we will make ‘convenience’ stops plus a 1-hour break for lunch (at your own expense). We check in with Norwegian Airlines for our flight back to Gatwick 2 hours prior to departure: 15:05 hrs.
Flight Home: Helsinki Flight: D8 370 Departs: 17:05
Arrival London Gatwick, South Terminal Arrives: 18:10
Whilst waiting for our luggage in Baggage Reclaim we bid each other farewell – until the next time!
Costs per person (including flights back and forth from London Gatwick to Helsinki) is expected to run from UK£1,779.00 (roughly US$2,500), assuming double-room occupancy. For those enthusiasts wishing to arrive in Finland from different departure points, be sure to check with Ian Allan Aviation Tours to discuss the details.
TOUR PRICE INCLUDES
Flights on the scheduled services of Norwegian Airlines from London’s Gatwick Airport, as stated
UK and Finnish airport taxes, and UK Passenger Service Charge
Coach transfers as stated
8 nights hotel accommodation in rooms with en-suite facilities
Continental breakfast each morning
Admission to all aviation museums and collections as stated
Admission to the 100th Anniversary of the Finnish Airshow if free of charge (cost yet to be confirmed)
Services of an Ian Allan Tour Manager throughout
Gratuity for coach driver
Meals, other than those stated
Any admission charge for attending the Airshow Arrivals Day
Any admission charge for the 100th Anniversary of the Finnish Air Force Airshow
Any upgrade of the basic admission ticket to the airshow: e.g. Photographers, VIP etc
Visa – not required by British passport holders
Personal expenditure, e.g. telephone calls, laundry, drinks, etc.
Tips and gratuities
This looks like it will be a fascinating tour for the discerning aviation enthusiast, and is bound to be enormous fun. Be sure to check with Ian Allan Aviation Tours for further details about both the tour and its requirements.