- Question 1: Who are the users of Malmi Airport?
- Question 2: Is Malmi’s aviation just about hobbyists?
- Question 3: Couldn’t Malmi’s operations be moved away from the capital region?
- Question 4: Are there general aviation airports in the middle of the city elsewhere?
- Question 5: Aren’t two airports that close to each other a safety risk?
- Question 6: Is Malmi Airport valuable as a cultural heritage site?
- Question 7: Isn’t aviation an extreme sport suitable only for supermen and -women?
- Question 8: Shouldn’t Malmi Airport go because Helsinki needs building land for residential areas?
- Question 9: Doesn’t Malmi Airport disturb the people living nearby?
- Question 10: Are there any natural values requiring protection at Malmi Airport?
- Question 11: Isn’t Malmi Airport a dead place where nothing ever happens?
- Question 12: The traffic at Malmi Airport has diminished by half since 1990, so is there demand for it anymore?
- Question 13: Aren’t the old aircraft of Malmi Airport a safety hazard to the people living nearby?
- Question 14: Isn’t a new residential area on Malmi Airport crucial to the future and the services of the region?
- Question 15: Isn’t Malmi Airport maintained with large sums of taxpayers’ money?
- Question 16: Can the operations of Malmi Airport be developed at the present location?
- Question 17: Won’t the services of Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport suffice for the capital region even in the future?
- Question 18: Does Malmi Airport have any value as a backup airport or for maintenance and supply security?
- Question 19: Can inexpensive housing be built at Malmi Airport?
- Question 20: Isn’t all the necessary infrastructure for housing already there at Malmi Airport?
- Question 21: Aren’t the prerequisites of aviation already gone, the hangars emptied etc.?
Question 1: Who are the users of Malmi Airport?
Answer: The users of Malmi Airport are professionals of the aviation branch, private aviators and hobbyists (in clubs). At Malmi, aviation is within the grasp of everyone living in the capital region, and the large group of people flying there consists of ordinary people from all walks of life. There are more than 100 active student pilots at Malmi (7/2018).
The majority of Malmi’s more than 100 aircraft belong to companies, clubs and aircraft rental businesses, and each one of them has dozens or even hundreds of users. There are still more than 100 aircraft at the airport, and some tens of helicopters in addition.
While the expenses paid by professional pilot students for their education are high, a private pilot’s license or an ultralight pilot’s license obtained from courses arranged by aviation clubs will not ruin anyone’s economy. If you can afford e.g. motorcycling, you could just as well be flying.
If you are not interested in powered flight, parachuting is even less expensive. There is no other place in the capital region where parachuting is possible. Model plane enthusiasts also enjoy flying their racers at Malmi Airport, and a huge crowd of people from the capital region simply likes to watch the propeller aircraft operating there. This doesn’t cost a penny, and the viewing platform and restaurant at Malmi offer a perfect place for it for the whole family. The aviation events organized at Malmi Airport regularly bring around tens of thousands of people.
Question 2: What kinds of aviation are there at Malmi Airport? Hasn’t aviation there already been made impossible?
Answer: Aviation continues actively, even though its boundary conditions have changed.
Above all, Malmi is the biggest aviation education center in the country. Training flights form a majority of all traffic at the Airport. In addition to the private pilots of the capital region, a major part of all professional pilots get their basic education there, to serve later on the aviation trade as airline pilots.
In 2019, Malmi is still an international airfield for domestic and international light air traffic, an official point of entry with customs and passport control services available. It has not only been a base for the Border Guard’s search and rescue helicopters, but also for the Police traffic control helicopter and ambulance helicopters. In early 2017, the Border Guard was transferred to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.
Hobby aviation’s share of Malmi’s traffic is 10-20%. In the field of hobby aviation, volunteer work serving general interest is done, e.g. search and rescue (SAR) operations as well as monitoring of oil spills originating from ships in the Gulf of Finland as part of the WWF’s Baltic Sea campaign (Operation Flying Mermaid).
Question 3: Couldn’t Malmi’s operations be moved away from the capital region?
Answer: Malmi Airport is the backbone and the lifeline of general aviation in the capital region simply because of its excellent location.
When the present effort to shut down Malmi Airport was initiated at the end of the 20th century, a “replacement” airfield in Sipoo right next to the capital was strongly hinted at. After that, the “replacement” airfield location has moved in sales pitches bit by bit further away, via Mäntsälä to Riihimäki to Kiikala 65 miles away, where it wouldn’t have anything to do with the general aviation needs of the capital region any more.
The thorough expert study “The location alternatives for the general aviation airfield of Helsinki region” (LVM 16/2011), published in 2011 by the Ministry of Transport and Communications as a basis for environmental impact assessment (EIA) ended up rejecting all 50 proposed locations as EIA alternatives, leaving only the EIA baseline scenario of continuing operations at Malmi. The latest twist (March 2014) is that the State no longer requires any replacement to Malmi at all: pilot training and hobby aviation are simply to be cast out to cope as they may on existing airfields elsewhere.
The so-called Piirainen’s expert group, appointed by the Ministry of Traffic and Communications, reported already in 2000 that the existing airfields are poor replacements for Malmi for various reasons. The firms operating on Malmi Airport have almost without exception declared that they have no economic future whatsoever on any airfield further away from the capital. Malmi’s pilot training also encompasses more than 30.000 powered flight operations annually, which would be an unbearable change in the living conditions of the population in the new locale. In decentralizing Malmi’s operations, the excellent synergy between various aviation-related sectors would also be lost.
The 4000-8000 annual hobby flight operations cannot fit on the uncontrolled small airfields in Uusimaa province in a way that fulfills the requirements of safety and the environment. The active glider bases of Nummela and Hyvinkää, which have been proposed to accommodate Malmi’s hobbyists, are situated next to a population center and have little powered flight activity. Both municipalities have decided not to allow large-scale aviation activities to be transferred there.
A short distance to travel to the airport makes it possible for the aviation clubs to overhaul and maintain their aircraft to a large extent by voluntary work, without the need to buy these services from commercial entrepreneurs except in the case of the most demanding jobs. This in turn keeps the price of flying within the reach of an average aviator. The youths of the capital region also have a chance to get to enjoy aviation incentives by local bus or bike.
If the aviation operations of Malmi are moved away from the capital region, the price of flying and the time required to reach the airfield will increase to an unbearable level. Because of these new unreasonable requirements, no new hobbyists would be obtained from the capital region, and a whole branch of trade and human activity would wither away from the most densely populated region of the country.
For business aviation and taxi flights, the situation would be just as bizarre. The closest international airport serving traffic on free schedule is in Turku some 150 km away. A taxi stand in Turku does not serve a customer in Helsinki in any way.
After relocating the activities of Malmi Airport, Helsinki would be one of the few European capitals without access by small aircraft on a free schedule. For the sake of comparison, it is worthwhile to note that in Stockholm, Sweden, the regional runway capacity was in 2003 seen as such a regional advantage that downsizing it was not considered affordable. In addition to Arlanda Airport, Stockholm is served by Bromma Airport in the middle of the city, comparable in size to Malmi, as well as several smaller airfields within a 25 km radius.
Question 4: Are there general aviation airports in the middle of the city elsewhere?
Answer: Malmi Airport is not in the middle of Helsinki, but at the furthest limit northeast about 10 km from the city center. There are general aviation airfields much closer to notable cities in Europe and around the world. The table below shows examples of general aviation airfields serving light traffic in cities around the world and their distances from the city.
|City||Main airport (km)||General aviation airport (km)|
|Adelaide||Adelaide 6||Parafield 15|
|Amsterdam||Schiphol 9||Hilversum 24|
|Auckland||Auckland 17||Ardmore 27|
|Belfast||Aldergrove 21||Belfast City 2|
|Berlin||Tegel 8||Werneuchen 15|
|Bonn||Konrad Adenauer 20||Hangelar 6|
|Brussels||Bruxelles Nat. 7||Grimbergen 12|
|Bucharest||Otopeni 17||Banesa 9|
|Calgary||Calgary 8||Springbank 22|
|Dublin||Dublin 10||Weston 12|
|Düsseldorf||Düsseldorf 7||Mönchengladbach 20|
|Göteborg||Landvetter 20||Göteborg City / Säve 9|
|Hamburg||Hamburg 9||Finkenwerder 10|
|Helsinki||Vantaa 17||Malmi 10|
|Copenhagen||Kastrup 6||Roskilde 27|
|London||Heathrow 22||London City 11|
|Lyon||St. Exupéry 11||Bron 12|
|Madrid||Barajas 13||Cuatro Vientos 9|
|Malmö||Sturup 24||Lund 17|
|Melbourne||Melbourne 22||Moorabbin 22|
|Milano||Maipensa 40||Linate 6|
|Munich||Munich 28||Oberschleissheim 8|
|Oslo||Gardemoen 50||Kjeller 20|
|Paris||Charles de Gaulle 25||Le Bourget 12|
|Perth||Perth 10||Jandakot 16|
|Reykjavik||Reykjavik 35||Reykjavik City 1|
|Rome||Fiumicino 31||Urbe 8|
|Sydney||Kingsford Smith 9||Bankstown 21|
|Toronto||Pearson 20||Billy Bishop 3|
|Stockholm||Arlanda 37||Bromma 7|
|Warsaw||Okecie 10||Babice 10|
|Vancouver||Vancouver 12||Boundary Bay 16|
|Vienna||Vienna 16||Stockerau 22|
|Zürich||Kloten 9||Birrfeld 12|
It is worthwhile to think how “Helsinki-Kiikala, 100 km” would look in place of Malmi on this list of European cities. This notion reveals the big problem with the proposed “replacement airfields” of Malmi: they do not replace Malmi on any level because they do not serve the aviation needs of the capital region.
In addition, it must be taken into account that by far the majority of all airports in Finland are less than 20 km away from a city and serve general aviation too. The million-people capital region ending up as the leading aviation backwater in the country and in Europe would be quite harmful to the aspirations of Helsinki to become a European metropolis.
Question 5: Aren’t two airports that close to each other a safety risk?
Answer: The airspaces of Helsinki-Vantaa ja Helsinki-Malmi are completely separate. The airspace borders are very clear and tightly controlled. In this way the problems caused by fast heavy jets and slow small aircraft operating in the same lively airspace are avoided.
This system works and has worked splendidly for decades: Helsinki-Vantaa takes care of heavy fast traffic, and Malmi serves slow small aircraft completely separately. Flight safety is thus maintained in the best possible way. The airports in Vantaa and at Malmi can arguably be seen as a single metropolitan airport where the runways serving different kinds of traffic have been separated from each other.
If Malmi Airport were closed down, light air traffic at Helsinki-Vantaa would unavoidably increase because part of, e.g., chartered light traffic would land there due to the excessively long distance of the airfield “replacing” Malmi. Taking the long-term air traffic forecasts into account, if Helsinki-Vantaa were to remain the only airfield in the capital region, the smooth operation of air traffic would certainly be hampered.
Question 6: Is Malmi Airport valuable as a cultural heritage site?
Answer: Malmi is one of the best-preserved pre-WWII international airport milieus in the world. The functionalist architecture of its buildings has won international acclaim. Since 1991, the Airport as a whole has been included in the list of nationally significant cultural environments (in Finnish) by the National Board of Antiquities (NBA) and the Ministry of the Environment. The Airport has also been twice selected on the global List of 100 Most Endangered Sites by World Monuments Fund (WMF). ICOMOS and ICCROM, advisers of UNESCO’s World Heritage Programme, are represented in its selection panel. In March 2016, the leading European cultural heritage organization Europa Nostra selected Malmi Airport as one of Europe’s Seven Most Endangered Cultural Heritage Sites.
According to the experts of the NBA, the WMF and Europa Nostra, the cultural-historical value of the Airport is strongly based on its continuing busy aviation use. The Airport with its runways has also been included in the selection of significant monuments of modern architecture by the international DoCoMoMo working group.
The function of the buildings as a part of an operational airport would be lost if the aviation activities were relocated and a suburb were built on the runways. The most significant historic aviation milieu in Finland and its cultural value would be destroyed, and only two buildings torn from their functional purpose would remain. As such, the remains of Malmi Airport would have no claim to be included in any international lists of valuable sites.
As a consequence of its numerous international recognitions and cultural-historical monument listings, Malmi Airport has become a significant case for Finland’s reputation as a nation of culture. As a Member State of UNESCO, Finland has in October 2003 signed the UNESCO Declaration Concerning Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage. This Declaration is a moral obligation to act in protection of cultural heritage against intentional destruction by, e.g., defining legal consequences on state and individual level.
Malmi Airport has been the stage of numerous important occasions in the history of independent Finland since the latter part of the 1930s. From there, statesmen and ministers have departed to official visits and important negotiations in a time when the World War was falling on a small nation. The scheduled Ju-52 airliner “Kaleva” of Aero o/y was on its way to Malmi from Tallinn when it was shot down by the Soviet Air Force. The Allied Control Commission arrived at Malmi Airport after the armistice in September 1944. The coffin of Finland’s Marshal Mannerheim was brought to Malmi from Switzerland, and Miss Universe Armi Kuusela left to conquer the world from Malmi in 1952. These are just a small glimpse at all the significant events that have taken place at Malmi Airport. Guess where 19-year-old Cessna 172 pilot Mathias Rust took off on his world-famous flight to Moscow’s Red Square on 28 May 1987?
All the events that have taken place at Malmi over the decades form an invaluable, unbroken aviation tradition which is alive in a completely different way than just on the pages of history books.
Question 7: Isn’t aviation an extreme sport suitable only for supermen and -women?
Answer: This notion, kept up by movies and TV entertainment, is simply not true. Small-aircraft aviation is not an extreme sport at all. It is extremely safe, and suitable for any person of normal health. Typical eye-glasses or overweight are no obstacle to obtaining a pilot’s license. Parachuting is more of an extreme sport, but it doesn’t require superhuman qualities either – if you have no fears about bungee jumping, parachuting will not pose a problem.
Question 8: Shouldn’t Malmi Airport go because Helsinki needs building land for residential areas?
Answer: The highest population growth scenario, on which Helsinki’s new general planwas based, states that the population of Helsinki would be 874.000 in 2050 (City of Helsinki, Statistics 2013:29, tables on pages 41-42).
This would mean about 250.000 new inhabitants as compared to the year 2013. It should be mentioned, though, that the real population growth in 2014-2019 is already lagging from this by about 8400 inhabitants: the actual population of Helsinki on 1 January 2019 was 648 042 (City of Helsinki, Statistics 2019:14, tables on pages 42-43) when according to the general plan scenario it should have been 656 438.
In November 2018, the Supreme Administrative Court repealed the general plan’s residential building reserve for 60.000-80.000 inhabitants related to the planned “city boulevards”, and a building reserve for about 6000-7500 new inhabitants in Tuomarinkylä. The general plan was, however, drawn with a safety factor of 2: (p. 66, in Finnish); in the form proposed by the City it contained building reserve not for 250.000, but for 500.000 new inhabitants.
Subtracting from this number the repealed building reserve for max. 87.500 new inhabitants, it is found that the new legal general plan of Helsinki, even after the parts repealed by the Supreme Administrative Court, contains residential building reserve for 412.500 new inhabitants.
Subtracting from this the 25.000 inhabitants planned on Malmi Airport, it is found that elsewhere in Helsinki, after the rounds of court appeals, there is now legal residential building reserve for 137 500 new inhabitants in excess of what the highest population growth scenario up to the year 2050 requires.
It should also be noted that the planning area of Malmi Airport, targeted for 25.000 people, covers 330 hectares, while the Airport in its entirety only covers 127 hectares. In addition, this calculation does not include the complementary building reserve in Helsinki or the area projects in progress that have been planned earlier.
The latest development in increasing the building land reserve of Helsinki is the annexation of southwest Sipoo (Östersundom) to Helsinki in 2009. The planning area of Östersundom is 21 times as large as Malmi Airport and its safety zone. This was made possible by creating a common border between Helsinki and Sipoo by the annexation from City of Vantaa of the so-called Västerkulla Triangle, which is by itself the same size as Malmi Airport and its safety zone.
The planning area of Östersundom has an area of 45 km2, of which the Natura 2000 sanctuaries and their buffer zones take up 9 km2 according to the latest information (2013). The remaining 36 km2 of usable land is equal to more than seventeen Malmi Airports and their safety zones.
Even though the new Östersundom general plan was repealed by Helsinki Administrative Court in November 2019, and even if the City does not appeal the decision, there is several decades of time to draw a new and more Natura 2000 -friendly general plan for Östersundom before the legal building reserve outside historic Malmi Airport is used up.
Outside Helsinki city limits, in the other municipalities of the capital region, there is more than enough high-quality building land for planning to cover all future needs, if only cooperation in making use of them is achieved over the municipality borders on the map. A metropolitan administration over the borders and the consolidation of municipalities are constantly debated as urgently needed measures to make the building politics of the capital region more rational, and the State is vigorously promoting them. It is thus to be expected that in the near future, long before the year 2050, the ample building land reserve of the capital region becomes available to housing production in a rational manner.
Because of this, the hurried destruction of remaining diversity of cultural environments and landscapes inside the borders of Helsinki is perverse, especially in the case of Malmi Airport: in addition to Lappeenranta (200 km away), it is the only airport offering proper services to light aircraft in all of Southern Finland Province. The nearest airport of comparable quality is in Turku some 150 km away. Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport, focusing on heavy scheduled air traffic, only serves light aircraft in a very limited manner.
Thus the closing down of Malmi Airport to build apartment blocks for 25.000 people simply cannot be a matter of life and death for Helsinki. The choking of the operations of a functionally irreplaceable airport as a target for housing construction, going on for decades already, does not serve the general interests of society nor the building of a European metropolis.
Question 9: Doesn’t Malmi Airport disturb the people living nearby?
Answer: Every time a poll is made concerning this matter, the noise-protesters are left in a small minority. To an overwhelming majority of the local residents, the beautiful airport and its special historic and cultural character are a matter of pride. In addition, the Airport has operated continuously since the 1930s, long before any of the suburbs now surrounding it were built. Thus it is difficult to imagine that the sounds of flying would have come as a surprise to those who moved into the vicinity.
Several local residents’ associations and other associations have voiced their support for preserving Malmi Airport in aviation use. The petition of the Friends of Malmi Airport Society to save Malmi Airport has been signed by thousands of people living nearby.
The opinion of all the people of Helsinki was made clear by Gallup Finland in October 2004. In this professional, unbiased opinion poll with an error margin of 3%, it was shown that 58% of the people of Helsinki (more than 320.000 people) is in favor of keeping Malmi Airport in aviation use. Only 22% of the people wanted the Airport to be used for residential purposes. Gallup Finland made a similar study in December 2005 for the whole capital region (Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa), and the preservation of the Airport got a 65% support (equal to more than 630.000 capital region residents). According to the recent study by TNS Gallup (August 2014), at least 2/3 of the people in the cities of the capital region as well as elsewhere in Uusimaa province want to keep Malmi Airport in aviation use if the needs of housing production can be met in other ways. The same result was obtained when TNS Gallup repeated the study in March 2017: the biggest group of voters of each party was found to support keeping Malmi Airport in aviation use without conditions.
Recent information about the alleged disturbance caused by Malmi Airport can also be found in the City of Helsinki Environment Centre’s questionnaire study, published in 2010 (in Finnish, summary in English on page 4), where 2100 randomly selected residents described the quiet places that they find important in the capital. Malmi Airport emerged as a place whose almost perfect tranquility in the evenings, at night and in winter is perceived as worth mentioning.
Question 10: Are there any natural values requiring protection at Malmi Airport?
Answer: The 100-hectare meadow of Malmi Airport is one of the most significant bird paradises in Helsinki. Of the 130-hectare airport area, only 17% is covered by pavement or buildings. Meadows are an endangered nature type everywhere in Finland.
Several species mentioned in Appendix 1 of the European Union’s Bird Directive and included in the international IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are observed at the Airport, e.g. the critically endangered great snipe (Gallinago media) and the critically endangered ruff (Calidris pugnax). Some of these species nest there regularly, e.g. the curlew (Numenius arquata), the corncrake (Crex crex), the whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), the common whitethroat (Sylvia communis) and the red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio). The deciduous woods around the airport are also a valuable biotope where e.g. the endangered white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) has been observed. The latest observation, made in the local winter bird count as part of the national birdlife follow-up study, is from 6 January 2017.
The Airport also has a plentiful population of bats, moles and other small mammals, foxes and brown hares, as well as a rich ecosystem of insects and plants.
In a preliminary bat survey in summer 2015, several species of bats were observed, e.g. the northern bat (Eptesicus nilssonii), Nathusius’ pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) and the parti-coloured bat (Vespertilio murinus), to which the weakly lit meadow of the airport offers excellent hunting grounds. All bats of Finland are on the EU’s Habitats Directive’s Annex IV(a) list of species in need of strict protection, and according to the Finnish Law of Nature Conservation, it is forbidden to weaken or destroy their breeding and resting grounds.
In a preliminary butterfly and moth survey in summer 2015, in spite of the second poor summer in a row, 539 species were observed on Malmi Airport. Among them were the endangered burren green (Calamia tridens), two vulnerable species and ten near-threatened species.
Uninterrupted aviation activity since the 1930s has not disturbed the natural values of Malmi Airport. The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation has in several statements opposed the relocation of Malmi’s aviation operations. The same view has been presented by the local MaTaPuPu Birding Society.
Longinoja brook, successfully restored as a breeding brook of the critically endangered sea trout (Salmo trutta trutta) is the only drain for the waters originating from the airport’s catchment area. The extensive stabilization and piling work before residential building can commence would release massive amounts of muddy clay, which would end up in Longinoja and drain into Vantaa river, which is home to Europe’s largest population of the threatened thick-shelled river mussel (Unio crassus), included in the EU’s Habitats Directive’s Annex IV(a) list of species in need of strict protection.
The nature path encircling the Airport is hugely popular among the local residents because Malmi Airport is the last remaining open green area in their home district. More information about the nature values of Malmi Airport can be found on the pages of MaTaPuPu Birding Society (in Finnish).
The natural diversity of the Airport and its surroundings cannot be expected to survive the pressure created first by a huge construction site and then by tens of thousands of new residents.
Question 11: Isn’t Malmi Airport a dead place where nothing ever happens?
Answer: When measured by take-offs and landings, Malmi Airport is by far the second liveliest airport in Finland after Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport. This can be confirmed from the Annual Report of Finavia 2013 (page 103).
Malmi Airport serves the general aviation needs of the whole capital region and is for almost a million people the only place where versatile aviation activities are available at reasonable cost and trouble (and using local public transportation). The Airport also frequently serves as a venue of public events not related to aviation, e.g. concerts and motor sports events.
Question 12: The traffic at Malmi Airport has diminished by half since 1990, so is there demand for it anymore?
Answer: By looking at the number of operations at Malmi Airport from 1980 onwards it is easy to see that the huge traffic in the reference year 1990 is a consequence of the anomalously overheated economy of that time, and the downhill afterwards reflects the great economic depression of the 1990s. The basic traffic at Malmi Airport has been stable over a long period of time – it is by far the busiest airport in Finland after Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport.
Question 13: Aren’t the old aircraft of Malmi Airport a safety hazard to the people living nearby?
Answer: All aircraft must meet extremely tight maintenance requirements that are rigorously enforced. Safety is the leading principle in all aviation. Every small aircraft must be inspected annually and undergoes meticulously defined maintenance procedures at specified time intervals (e.g., 50 hours, 100 hours, 200 hours). Without these overhauls, the aircraft is grounded.
This is why the aircraft are technically extremely reliable regardless of their age and looks. Just in case, the Airport is surrounded by open safety zones where the aircraft can land in an unlikely forced landing situation. Throughout the almost 80-year-long history of Malmi Airport, no bystanders near the Airport have been injured or killed by an aircraft.
Question 14: Isn’t a new residential area on Malmi Airport crucial to the future and the services of the region?
Answer: Malmi Airport is no threat to the services in the region. The business center of Malmi has a solid, large and faithful customer base which has no interest in regular shopping at other similar centers further away.
As to the future of the region, much greater prospects are offered by the sole general aviation airport in the metropolitan area – an international channel of light air traffic which at the same time is a recognized world-class cultural rarity.
Taking the long-term air traffic forecasts into account, giving up such a regional advantage and potential business magnet just to cram one more suburb into a densely populated area would be senseless. It is worthwhile to note that the Northeast Helsinki Entrepreneurs’ Association is a member organization of the Friends of Malmi Airport Society.
In the light of all the international recognition, Malmi Airport has all the makings of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Complemented by a high-quality aviation museum the Airport can be developed into a world-class attraction for cultural tourism, bringing considerable income and international appreciation to the region.
Question 15: Isn’t Malmi Airport maintained with large sums of taxpayers’ money?
Answer: The maintenance of the airport system in Finland is paid for by the users of the airports, not by the taxpayers. Finavia is a government-owned enterprise which finances the upkeep of the aviation infrastructure from its revenues. Finavia chose to keep Malmi Airport operational even at a net loss. This is an indication of the value of Malmi Airport as an education and recruiting center as perceived by the foremost expert organization in the field of aviation.
After Finavia ceased to operate Malmi Airport at the end of 2016, the operator has been Malmi Airfield Association, which doesn’t dig into the taxpayers’ purse either, but pays rent to the City for the area used for aviation. The aviation operators that were tenants in the historic aircraft hangar paid a total of around €100.000 per year in rent to the City, until the City refused to rent the hangar for aviation activities any more in August 2018 and evicted the aircraft out of doors.
According to available information, the net costs of operating Malmi Airport in Finavia’s time were of the order of 1 million euro annually. The major part of this sum consisted of air traffic control expenses, which in a unique arrangement were payed by Finavia’s Helsinki-Malmi unit to its Helsinki-Vantaa unit. This transferring of money inside Finavia didn’t have a visible effect on the profits of Helsinki-Vantaa, but made a big dent in Helsinki-Malmi’s economical result. This sum was collected from the passengers using Finavia’s airports and came to about 10-20 eurocents per flight ticket. On the other hand, the professional pilot education infrastructure elsewhere in Finland is supported with tax money from the Ministry of Education and Culture by several million euro per year. In spite of this, it is Malmi that educated 2/3 of all professional pilots in Finland, and still continues to be a significant education center of professional pilots. Thus, from the point of view of the taxpayers, Malmi Airport has been by far the most efficient pilot training center in the country.
It is said that the City of Helsinki loses land rent and tax income because of Malmi Airport. This argument, however, is never presented when talking about Helsinki’s large unbuilt land areas, suitable for housing, which the City could afford to leave completely outside the City’s General Plan and which have not been ceded to any other purpose either. Because of this, the claims of the City’s loss of income are not convincing.
Question 16: Can the operations of Malmi Airport be developed at the present location?
Answer: In the United States, the aviation authorities have already in 2006 warned U.S. cities against closing down their small regional airports. The revolution which is in progress in the field of business aircraft will in the near future make such airports important regional assets.
In a couple of decades, every runway in the capital region will be indispensable. According to the commercial aviation growth estimates of EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, air traffic in Finland and neighboring countries will grow by 30-70% from the 2012 level by 2035, and by a factor of 2 or 3 by 2050. The sufficiency of aviation infrastructure and its capacity are a strategic worry of the EU. If the forecasts become reality, the smooth and flexible operation of business flights at Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport would be in jeopardy; the non-scheduled business flights can get flexible service only when the regular scheduled air traffic situation allows it.
The new generation of small 4-8 seat microjets (VLJ, Very Light Jet) cause less noise than the traditional propeller aircraft at Malmi Airport. They are in practice as fast as traditional business jets, considerably less expensive to buy and to maintain, and they can operate without difficulty from just 1-km-long runways. They are taking the business aviation market by storm everywhere in the world, and some have already been ordered to Finland too. As this new generation of business aircraft takes over, the present runways at Malmi Airport will be fully adequate to ensure the flexible business flight services of the capital region.
The flexibility of business flight services will also be lost if the airport serving them is located e.g. at the distance of Porvoo from the capital region. Potentates of international business and politics, arriving on a 1-hour flight from Stockholm, St. Petersburg, the Baltic countries or other nearby airfields, will not spend more than an hour on the road in the morning rush hour traffic towards Helsinki, and back to the airport in the evening. Malmi Airport is located in an excellent place just 15 minutes away from the city centers of the capital region and from Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport, and it also makes the dozens of small airfields around Finland easily accessible.
It is quite possible to devise an instrument landing method on Malmi’s present runways. Modern GPS-based augmented methods make instrument approaches possible with far more flexibility than the traditional methods. By redesigning the methods of Helsinki-Vantaa and Malmi to work together, the closeness of the two airports will not cause problems for their smooth operation. In the metropolises of the world, small airfields operate even closer to big ones than in Helsinki: a good example of this are Charles de Gaulle, the huge heavy-traffic airport of Paris, and Le Bourget, the busiest business and general aviation airport in Europe, situated just 3 km away from each other with intersecting runway directions.
Question 17: Won’t the services of Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport suffice for the capital region even in the future?
Answer: Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport has by long-term effort achieved the status of international hub airport. The competition for this status between metropoles is merciless, because it brings a significant boost to their economic life and competitive edge.
The “Connect Sweden” project, initiated in 2013, aims to make Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport the leading airport in the Nordic countries. Bromma City Airport in the middle of Stockholm is considered crucial to the success of this undertaking and the smooth handling of the strongly increasing air traffic. In St. Petersburg, billions of euro have been invested in Pulkovo Airport in recent years.
Helsinki-Vantaa is the only coordinated airport in Finland. This means that flying to/from there with a free schedule is not possible. Even today, a time slot to use Helsinki-Vantaa’s runways must be applied for three hours in advance. This limits the free movement of unscheduled business flights in the region: e.g., a business traveller who needs to catch a Finnair flight to a Far East destination in a hurry cannot get to Helsinki from Stockholm, St. Petersburg or the Baltics within one hour except by landing at Malmi Airport, because time slots are not required there.
Large investments are underway at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, but they will not remove the time slot system of a busy international airport specializing in scheduled air route traffic. When the traffic grows by a factor of 2 or 3 by the year 2050, it remains to be seen how long in advance time slots must be applied for then. In any case, flexible services to business flights will in the future be a crucial part of the competitive edge of the capital region, which is the locomotive of Finland’s economic life.
If Malmi Airport did not exist, the nearest comparable services for business flights would be in Turku about 150 km away. This would weaken the accessibility of Helsinki and its standing in the competition between metropoles.
Question 18: Does Malmi Airport have any value as a backup airport or for maintenance and supply security?
Answer: Malmi Airport is the only backup airport of the capital region. If Helsinki-Vantaa has to be closed for any reason, passenger and cargo air traffic has no other way to/from the capital than Malmi Airport. This happened the last time in 1986 during a weeks-long civil service strike, when domestic air traffic was smoothly taken care of with lighter aircraft via Malmi Airport. When dictated by weather conditions, Malmi also acts as a backup airport for e.g. Helsinki-Vantaa’s lighter traffic and Hernesaari Heliport.
The latest commercial route traffic from Malmi Airport was flown in 2010-2011, when the Danish company Bel Air flew regular passenger helicopter flights to and from the pipeline-laying vessel Solitaire operating on the Baltic Sea.
In 2018-2019 the same kind of regular helicopter traffic is flown by the German operator Wiking Helikopter Service. This regular commercial traffic would undoubtedly have been flown from Helsinki-Vantaa if it had fitted the major airport’s concept better.
It is thus incomprehensible that as part of the surveys made for City of Helsinki’s new General Plan, a location for a necessary heliport was searched in 2014 without success right next to Malmi Airport in Kivikko, even though the city airport at Malmi has supported the capital’s air traffic for decades offering complete international services.
Preserving Malmi Airport is supported also by considerations of maintenance and support security in times of crisis. For instance, Stockholm in Sweden has several airfields within 30 km of the city centre. Especially for the needs of the authorities it is necessary to have a place in the capital allowing air traffic even if the main airport at Helsinki-Vantaa or the roads leading there are unusable due to accidents, catastrophies, war, or strike.
Question 19: Can inexpensive housing be built at Malmi Airport?
Answer: The deep and watery clay soil of Malmi is extremely poor land for building. It would be necessary to drive piles under every building to a depth reaching 25 meters (82 feet), but even that wouldn’t be enough: in addition, piles would be needed under roads, yards, parking lots and everything else to avoid the fate of the Fallkulla block of apartment houses at the northwestern edge of the airport, built on the same clay soil in 2005.
The state of Fallkulla housing area is unambiguously depicted in the photos taken there and in the open letter published in Facebook by Anita Olli, a resident of Fallkulla (translated from Finnish):
Today we got more bad news:
In our apartment block, it has been impossible to close the outer door for a few weeks in spite of repairs. Today the occupants, including myself, have had trouble getting out of the building because the door wouldn’t open. The maintenance man said that the door is so warped that it mustn’t be closed again, because then there’s no exit from the building.
Our yard is full of damaged asphalt riddled with potholes which people hit with their cars. The inner walls of the building has innumerable cracks. Our apartment block has stood on this spot for 11 years and six months and is sagging already, probably because of the ground under it.
Dear decision-makers of City of Helsinki:
PEOPLE, PLEASE THINK BEFORE YOU START TEARING DOWN MALMI AIRPORT AND BUILDING THERE!! PLEASE GO AND SEE THE DAMAGES TO THE APARTMENTS IN FALLKULLA AND ONLY AFTER THAT CONSIDER IF IT IS WORTHWHILE TO INITIATE A BILLION-EURO CATASTROPHY!!
The local newspaper Koillis-Helsingin Lähisanomat has also published a revealing photo and article (in Finnish) about the reality of Fallkulla’s “pilot project” on 5 August 2015.
In practice the only way to properly stabilize the ground at Malmi Airport would be to cover the area with a lid on piles, as has been done at the beginning of nearby Lahti freeway. The area of Malmi Airport, however, would require a lid covering more than 120 hectares (300 acres), and the cost of proper stabilization would be astronomical. In addition, due to its several groundwater layers, the clay soil is so sloppy that it does not offer lateral support to the piles. Inexpensive residences on the clay ground of Malmi Airport is a housing-political pipe dream which upon realization will turn into the residents’ nightmare soon after the constructor’s warranty expires.
Question 20: Isn’t all the necessary infrastructure for housing already there at Malmi Airport?
Answer: The fact that there already is electricity, waterlines and sewers in the suburbs around Malmi Airport does not mean that the “infrastructure is ready”. Even the asphalt-paved runways are not usable for road traffic due to their weight-carrying limits.
The networks cannot simply be extended from the edges of the area to provide for the needs for thousands of apartments. Completely new feeders, trunk lines, transformer stations, pumping stations etc. must be built. In all likelihood it will also be necessary to change the trunk networks because of the planned massive housing development for tens of thousands of residents.
Due to the weak soil of Malmi Airport, all networks must be built on piles. Every water pipe and sewer must be supported by piles, because otherwise the constant shifting of the ground will break them. The same goes for Malmi’s present runways: their weight limits do not allow constant use by thousands of cars. They must all be torn up and rebuilt on proper foundations.
The necessary infrastructure can be built elsewhere at the same (or cheaper) cost.
Question 21: Aren’t the prerequisites of aviation already gone, the hangars emptied etc.?
Even in aviation circles there has been some confusion about the possibilities of operating at Malmi Airport. Operations are in full swing, and a good set of operating instructions is available on Malmi Airfield Association’s website. Below is a summary of common rumors with elaborations on how they affect aviation activity.
Air Traffic Control is gone.
Finavia left Malmi Airport on 31 December 2016, and at the same time ATC became unavailable for the time being. The airport has functioned quite well even without it as an uncontrolled aerodrome, like more than 60 other Finnish airfields.
“Airfield status has been lost.”
Malmi is still an airfield, but at the moment not an airport. The requirements placed on an airport are higher than those of an airfield. An airport is a place built for regular air traffic, used by aircraft for take-offs and landings. According to the official definition, an airport is an aerodrome where air traffic services are permanently available.
The other runway has been closed.
Malmi Airport once had four runways, of which only two have been in use for decades. Under Trafi’s orders, one of them has been closed for safety reasons. Several Finnish aerodromes have intersecting runways (e.g. Nummela, Hyvinkää, Pori) operational without adverse effects on safety. The large volume of traffic has probably been a factor in Trafi’s requirement. With today’s aircraft technology, the one-runway model is safe and practical.
The Border Guard and Patria have left.
The Border Guard’s Air Patrol Squadron has moved to Helsinki-Vantaa, and Patria Pilot Training to Tampere-Pirkkala. The cost of operations is much higher than at Malmi, and it has been necessary to raise e.g. the price of pilot training substantially. Both of these operators were moved away from Malmi by political administrative action, although they would have been happy to continue operations there. The volume of traffic has not been affected much by their absence, and their return to Malmi is still possible.
The aircraft have been evicted from the hangar.
Out of the 11 aircraft hangars at Malmi, two are controlled by the City. The so-called Border hangar has been empty since spring 2017 in spite of made offers of rent. The bigger so-called Hangar 1 was rented for keeping aircraft, until it was ordered to be emptied by a political decision. Some aircraft owners have refused to leave the hangar and still keep their aircraft there, paying their rent normally. The situation is open.
“Event after event at the airport is preventing aviation.”
According to the contract, the airport area is made available to other events up to ten times per year. Most of these events have been related to hobby cars, and their spectators have very unanimously been in favor of keeping Malmi Airport in aviation use. The longest interruption to Malmi Airport’s operations, about one week, was caused by Ed Sheeran’s megaconcerts in summer 2019.
“The place is falling apart.”
City of Helsinki is responsible for the condition of the airport buildings and maintaining them according to the prohibition of endangerment issued on the basis of the proposal to protect Malmi Airport. Any deterioration is to be reported to the property manager appointed by the City.
“Briefing is closed.”
Briefing is available on self service basis, the same as all other airfields in Finland that have briefing. Helsinki-Vantaa has a manned briefing.