HBL: "Clouds gathering over Malmi"

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Clouds gathering over Malmi

Hufvudstadsbladet 31 August 2017

Tommy Pohjola
translated by Seppo Sipilä

Photo: Tommy Pohjola

As of Friday this week, the big hangar is to be left empty.

– I don’t know what’s going on, except that the City has turned down two offers of tenancy from us, says Gun Gustavsson of BF-Lento Ltd, operating at Malmi since almost 50 years.

In early May the objective was to get aviation out and cars and fleamarkets in. According to City of Helsinki, everything had gone by the book even though “there’d been slight hitches in communication”. After that, there’s been silence about the planned uses of the hangar that has until now served aircraft maintenance and storage.

– That goes without saying. We can’t control the hangar or rent it to e.g. concert organizers as long as there are aircraft in it, says Merja Sorakari of City of Helsinki’s Tukkutori.

The same goes for the runways, aprons and greens. According to Sorakari, they are difficult to rent as long as there’s aviation activity at the airport.

She says that Tukkutori is negotiating with various event organizers. She cannot say who these are and what they are about.

Gun Gustavsson has filed a complaint against the decision, and now BF-Lento’s proposal of renting the whole hangar will be considered once more. She doesn’t, however, know when this will take place. Nor does she know what will happen on Friday after the tenancy agreement of the hangar expires. Will the City’s tractors come to tow the airplanes out of the great hangar?

– Hardly. All I know is that the agreement will expire, says Sirpa Kallio. She is the official in charge of developing the airport area.

BF-Lento has about ten aircraft that are used e.g. in pilot training and aerial photography. The company has declined the proposal to rent a lot on the airport.

– The idea was that we’d put up a tarp hangar and take our aircraft there. That doesn’t work. The aircraft will go moldy in moist and cold conditions, says Gun Gustavsson.

The City has also said no to the shipping agency Stella Group, which would like to fly helicopter traffic for the Nordstream gas pipeline project from Malmi.

– We’d need about 300 square meters and an office. This won’t happen in the big old hangar, and would be far too expensive in the other, newer hall. The City has another strategy, and it’s saying no. We’ll just have to live with that, says CEO Heikki Lemba.

There’s hope?

Supported by a widespread popular opinion, the Friends of Malmi Airport have continued the battle to keep the aviation activities at Malmi. HBL’s sources inside and outside of City Hall say that this has incensed the Green vice mayor Anni Sinnemäki. The officials who have ended up in the line of fire say in their defense that political steering from the highest level is involved. The City wants to build housing for up to 25.000 people on the airport. According to the technical reports commissioned by the City, building on swampland won’t be cheap, but is feasible.

Why is it important to keep and develop the aviation activities, Björn Månsson (Swedish Party)?

– Malmi is one of the oldest still active airports in the world. Then there’s the enterprise-political angle. Unscheduled business flights have far better operational preconditions at Malmi than they do at Helsinki-Vantaa International. It is also an area of employment.

According to Månsson there is hope. The Helsinki Administrative Court may rule in favor of the complaint filed against the new general plan, which redefines the second-busiest airport in Finland as a residential area. In autumn, the Parliament may pass the “Lex Malmi” citizens’ law initiative to keep the airport, and one can always place hope in Unesco now that the cultural heritage organization Europa Nostra has recognized Malmi’s significance.