Thunder in the skies over Turku
Text: Matti Välimäki
Photos: Ilari Välimäki
The Turku Air Show on 15-16 June 2019 was a thunderous event. Among others, fighters included in the HX project circled in the sky. Finland’s next fighter model will be selected by way of a tendering process. The French Dassault Rafale, the joint European Eurofighter Typhoon FGR and the Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen showed what they could do up in the air. The Lockheed F-35A Lightning II stayed on the ground, presenting itself to the audience. The Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet is also included in the HX project, but it did not fly in the air show this time. The crowd of thousands was also particularly interested in NATO’s large E-3 A AWACS radar surveillance aircraft. The Finnish Air Force’s Midnight Hawks aerobatic display team and a demonstration flight of an F/A-18 Hornet also drew eyes to the skies. The air show culminated in a formation flight, with both old and new planes honouring the veterans of the Second World War. The rumble of aircraft engines was accompanied by the symphonic poem ‘Finlandia’ by Jean Sibelius.
Patria also exhibited its products and services at the Turku Air Show. Juhani Hanka, who leads the HX project at Patria, explained that the event offered an excellent opportunity for discussions with the parties involved in the tendering process. “Discussions and plans with the different parties are progressing all the time. Here, we have also had the opportunity to meet with directors who we cannot otherwise see each week. At the same time, we have been able to analyse the results of the meetings held over the last couple of weeks and do some groundwork on future meetings to be held in the coming weeks." "Whichever fighter the government chooses, Patria is prepared to assume a leading industrial role in the maintenance of the system", Hanka emphasised. It is Hanka’s expectation that the decision on the fighter will be made in 2021, with the first planes arriving to Finland in 2025. The HX system must be ready for all of its tasks in 2030.
Patria showcased a remote air traffic control system at its stand, shown by Project Manager Ilkka Ruuskanen. " The system displays a video image to the air traffic controller, providing them with a similar view that they would have from a control tower; the required functionalities, such as airport weather data, are integrated into the system’s user interface. This allows remote air traffic control from a remote air traffic control centre located in a different town, for example. It allows the convenient and cost-effective operation of airports with little or occasional traffic, for example." Other systems exhibited at the stand included the tactical debriefing system TADS and the LVC combat training system intended for combat pilot training.
Head of Operations of Pilot Training Ville Kettula said that the Turku Air Show provided a good opportunity to reach out to those dreaming of a career as a civilian pilot. "This year, the Turku Air Show was the most important aviation event in the country, and attracted a huge number of people interested in aviation. The weather was also very favourable." Kettula mentions that Pilot Training has training systems for training civilian pilots from the ground up, if necessary. They currently have students from both Finland and abroad. "Beginning this autumn, we will be training students not only in Pirkkala but also in Spain, where some of our fleet will be transferred."