A celebration of the 80th anniversary of aviation at Halli
Text and photos: Otavamedia
This summer marked the 80th anniversary of the launch of aviation and aircraft industry operations at Hallinkangas, Kuorevesi. The glorious milestone was celebrated on 8 October with a festive event at which a bronze plaque attached to the pedestal of the Draken Memorial was inaugurated.
The event was hosted by Esa Mäkinen, the chairman of Lentovarikon Kilta ry (the Guild of the Air Force Depot). In his opening speech, he looked back on the first years of aviation at Halli. In the run-up to the Winter War, Finland strengthened its air defences and decided to transfer some of its air force operations to Kuorevesi (now Jämsä). In just one year, an airport, the Karhumäki and State Aircraft Factories, and an entire village complete with housing, commercial buildings, roads and electricity, water and sewerage networks were built in the Halli area.
“Mannerheim asked the Karhumäki brothers, who overhauled and repaired the State’s aircraft, to find a suitable location for a new airport for the Defence Forces in 1938. They found a suitably flat area of land sequestered away in a forest in Hallinkangas, Kuorevesi. Construction began in 1939. The State Aircraft Factory started up its operations here a year later,” said Mäkinen in his speech.
The operations of the Finnish Defence Forces have been scaled down at Halli over the decades, but the aircraft industry and both civilian and military aviation still play a major role at Halli. For instance, Patria – which is responsible for the maintenance of the Finnish Air Force’s equipment and manufactures composite structures for aircraft, for example – has more than 800 employees at Halli. In his speech, Major General Pasi Jokinen, the Commander of the Air Force, also emphasised the importance of Halli to the Defence Forces.
“During the past five years, Defence Forces aircraft have completed an average total of 1,000–1,100 take-offs and landings each year at the Halli Airport. Operations mainly comprise test flights, training flights and flight operations during military exercises. In connection with aircraft maintenance, Halli is an excellent location for test flights. The area has sufficient airspace for demanding test flights.
“To safeguard the operations of the Finnish Air Force in exceptional conditions, both now and in the future, it is vital that we can maintain an optimal base network covering the entire nation. Decentralisation is at the core of our operational art. We use road bases effectively, but the utilisation of airports and permanent structures designed for aviation enables faster changes in grouping, better protection and enhanced operational base capacity. This makes Halli an attractive base of operations in decades to come, too,” said Jokinen.
After the speeches by Mäkinen and Jokinen, Senior Chaplain Kari Mannermaa inaugurated a bronze memorial plaque cast by Harri Toivola, which depicts the Fokker FR-118 fighter used in the Finnish Continuation War and the Hornet fighter currently flown by the Finnish Air Force.
Mannermaa hopes that the memorial will provide encouragement and inspiration, both now and in the future. After the inauguration, the bronze plaque was unveiled by Pekka Karhumäki, chairman of the Board of Veljekset Karhumäki Oy, and Lieutenant Colonel Kari Rusanen.
Music for the ceremony was provided by the Air Force Band, which started the festivities with Aino Mustonen’s “Hallinportti” march. After the speeches and plaque inauguration ceremony, the band played the “Jäger March”.
The ceremony was open to the public. It culminated in fitting fashion with an impressive Hornet airshow that delighted the audience. The festive day ended with coffee for invited guests at the old Volunteer Fire Brigade building in Halli.
The festive programme and the doughnuts and coffee served by a Service Canteen’s food truck attracted a large crowd to Halli. Many of those in the audience had personal experience of aviation.
One of the oldest attendees was Esko Penttilä, 93, who lives in Halli. His career in aviation technology spanned almost 50 years. He worked at the Halli aircraft repair shops for over 30 years and even flew a Messerschmitt BF 109. He greatly admired the festivities.
Another grand old man of aviation attended, too: Jaakko Harjumäki from Mänttä. Like Penttilä, he worked at Halli for three decades. Harjumäki served at Valmet and Patria in managerial and design tasks. He has personal experience of memorial projects – he was the coordinator and technical designer of the Leonardo Memorial project in Tampere. Harjunmäki’s opinion on the Halli ceremony was similar to Penttilä’s, though with a humorous touch.
“As I’ve grown older, my emotions aren’t as strong as they used to be. However, I came to celebrate and meet familiar faces out of my own free will,” said Harjumäki with a twinkle in his eye.
Lentovarikon Kilta came up with the idea for the 80th anniversary celebration of aviation at Halli and organised the event. Lentotekniikan Kilta (Air Force Technical Guild), the City of Jämsä, Veljekset Karhumäki Oy, Finavia Oy, Patria and the Finnish Defence Forces were involved in its arrangements.