10 reasons to save Helsinki-Malmi Airport
|Historic Helsinki-Malmi Airport celebrated its 70th anniversary in May 2008.|
1) Finland needs an airfield for general aviation and aviation hobbies of youths in the capital region.
2) Malmi Airport is the backbone of rescue and patrol flights and of our aviation education.
3) Malmi Airport is a significant provider of jobs.
4) Malmi Airport is a part of the essential character of Helsinki.
5) Malmi Airport is bad building ground.
6) Malmi Airport is a unique natural green area in Helsinki.
7) The operational Malmi Airport is a world-class cultural treasure.
8) The capital region needs a backup airport.
9) The activities of Malmi Airport cannot be dispersed, at most they can be destroyed.
10) Taking the future prospects of aviation into account, Malmi Airport is a remarkable asset.
1) Finavia: the interests of aviation require preserving Malmi.
As the leading expert in aviation matters, Finavia (formerly Civil Aviation Administration) is responsible for developing aviation in our country. It says in its statement : "From the point of view of pilot training companies, small-scale commercial aviation and the maintenance of small aircraft, by far the best location for an airfield in the region is Malmi Airport. The interests of general aviation are best served by preserving it in its present function. [...] none of the present activities at Malmi can be moved to Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport for reasons of functionality, capacity and safety."
At the same time, Malmi is the biggest youth aviation center in our country. Hobbyists with their scale models as well as parachutists practice their skills in their assigned areas on the Airport. From the point of view of future aviation needs, Malmi Airport is in a perfect location. The Baltic states, St. Petersburg and all of southern Finland are within 200 miles.
2) Border Guard, City of Helsinki Rescue Department, Medi-Heli, Police, Finavia: losing Malmi Airport would seriously weaken the capacity for efficient operation!
Malmi Airport is the most important air base of the Border Guard. From Malmi, the border areas key to our national safety are monitored. In addition, almost half of all sea rescue, search and ambulance flights by the Border Guard are flown from Malmi. The State has strengthened the Malmi base with a giant investment for the next 20 years in 1995. There are no funds budgeted for moving the Airport.
Malmi Airport is the main air base for the City of Helsinki Rescue Department and has been vital also to the operations of the ambulance paramedic helicopter Medi-Heli. Malmi is also the base of the police helicopter which will see increasing use with the growing traffic on the roads. In its annual report 2002 , the Flight Safety Authority of the Civil Aviation Administration (Finavia) states: "Half of all pilots and nearly two-thirds of all professional pilots get their education on Malmi Airport. Thus, the Airport has a key role in aviation training and bringing up future generations of pilots. All presented alternatives of moving the aviation activities of Malmi elsewhere would seriously weaken the operational preconditions of pilot education and general aviation." Malmi is by a wide margin the second-busiest airport in Finland !
3) Malmi Airport is a significant provider of jobs.
According to a survey conducted in spring 2005, the companies and authorities operating at Malmi Airport offer jobs to 348 full-time ja 125 part-time employees. The combined annual turnover of the companies exceeds 33 million euro. In addition, the Airport indirectly brings work to about 600 persons. The value to society of the ca. 1000 jobs at Tattarisuo industrial area, whose destiny is bound to that of the Airport, is about 17 million euro/year. In addition, it indirectly employs about 3000 persons.
The building ban imposed on Malmi Airport by the City of Helsinki has efficiently hindered the development of the Airport's functions and thus also the creation of new jobs. The uncertainty about the future of the Airport has paralyzed the realization of available development plans and new investments.
4) Malmi Airport is part of the soul of Helsinki: an overwhelming majority would preserve it!
Helsinki was founded in 1550 as the commercial port of Finland to the outside world. Following the development of air traffic, the capital opened a seaplane harbor at Katajanokka in 1923, and as its successor the land-based Malmi Airport, which was inaugurated on 15 May 1938.
Because Helsinki was founded as a seaport town, its new cargo harbor is seen to belong within city limits in Vuosaari. But the eagerness of the city to close down its own land airport in favor of the neighboring city will destroy a part of the basic identity of Helsinki. At the same time it is shortsighted trade and business politics.
Over the last 65 years, Malmi Airport has developed into an irreplaceable part of cultural diversity in the whole capital region. For both children and adults, it is a year-round place to go, a place where the dream of flying comes true, a creator of aviation spirit, a door to aviation professions and hobbies. It is an especially strong part of the local home district identity . In addition to the aviators of the capital region , a majority of the local residents' associations have adopted an unequivocal stand in favor of preserving the Airport [e.g. 6]. In the unprecedentedly popular poll of the local newspaper "Helsingin Uutiset" on 12 January 2003, 90.9% of the people voted for preserving the Airport. The result was almost identical to the one obtained by the city newspaper "Uutislehti 100" on 3 September 2001 (91%), on 10 December 2004 (93%), and on 24 November 2005 (94%). Also according to a professionally conducted poll by Gallup Finland in October 2004, 58% of Helsinki residents want to preserve the Airport while 22% want it to be turned into a residential area. In a similar study in December 2005 for the whole capital region, 65% of the residents want to preserve Malmi Airport in aviation use - that's more than 630.000 people. The petition to save Malmi Airport has by April 2012 been signed by more than 53.000 people.
5) The abysmal ground under Malmi Airport will require thousands of payers.
|Builders of the capital's aviation infrastructure in 1935. A man and a shovel were in demand at Tattarisuo, as the deep unfirm clay ground could not support heavy machinery.|
Tattarisuo swamp was allocated to aviation purposes specifically because it was considered unfit for building houses . The groundwater lies only 1 meter (3 ft) below the surface. Additional difficulty is caused by two separate groundwater layers: the normal layer and a perched water layer. The deep clay soil will require pilework reaching depths of 25 meters (75 ft). The groundwork will be excessively expensive: in addition to the houses, also roads, yards and municipal engineering will have to be built on pilework. In spite of heavy pilework under the Airport hangar and the terminal, they have both sunk more than 50 cm (1.5 ft) into the ground over the decades. The planned second hangar was therefore never built. In the end, the unfirm clay soil under the runways forced the main airport to be moved to a new location in Seutula (Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport). For small and middle-sized aircraft, however, Malmi Airport is perfectly suited.
The reasons given for the planned closing down of Malmi Airport are the alleged lack of residential building ground and the need for more housing. The true reserve of building ground in Helsinki  and the City's Planning Overview 2003  do not support these claims. The population forecast of Helsinki has in late 2002 been drastically reduced to about 600.000 residents in 2025, while the new General Plan 2002 makes room for no less than 700.000 residents.
Malmi Airport has been portrayed at times as a future suburb of detached houses, at times as a suburb of semi-detached houses, and then as a suburb of small apartment houses for 6.000 - 14.000 people. When building on a deep clay ground, economic profitability requires that the costs of the exceptionally expensive groundwork are divided between as many new residents as possible. The plain truth is that building detached or semi-detached houses on the deep clay ground of Malmi Airport is economically irrational.
|Curlew (photo: Timo Yli-Viikari, taken elsewhere)|
6) Malmi Airport is a unique natural green area in Helsinki.
The nature values of Malmi Airport are remarkable. It is a significant local bird paradise because of its open nature and the security fence encircling the area. For instance, the curlew (Numenius arquata) does not nest anywhere else in Helsinki. Several species mentioned in Appendix 1 of the European Union's Bird Directive reside at the Airport. The corncrake (Crex crex), the whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), the common whitethroat (Sylvia communis) and the red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio), all with a near-threatened status in the international IUCN classification, nest there. The openness of the area is made even more significant by the fact that there are no seashores or other open vistas in northeastern Helsinki. It is also not to be forgotten that a "replacement airfield" as well as the dispersion of Malmi's operations to existing tranquil small airfields would be likely to destroy nature values in any other location. The Etelä-Häme Nature Conservation District and the Uusimaa Environment Conservation District of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and the Helsinki Nature Conservation Society  as well as the local nature societies  have in their statements opposed relocating the Airport.
7) As an operational airport, Malmi is a world-class cultural treasure!
Malmi Airport is an important part of the ensemble of functionalist buildings serving the planned and realized Helsinki Olympics (1940 and 1952). It has already in 1993 been included in the catalogue of built cultural environments of national importance. The architectural, cultural and historical values and the beautifully preserved original 1930's international airport milieu are so exceptional in the whole world that the Airport as a functioning whole has been selected onto the List of 100 Most Endangered Sites 2004-2005, published by the international World Monuments Fund . The nomination was supported by the National Board of Antiquities Finland and the Aviation Museum Society. The selection has been renewed in the List of 2006-2007. The Airport has been included in the Catalogue of Built Cultural Environments of National Significance since 1993 and is also part of the Finnish site selection of the international DoCoMoMo organization dedicated to cataloguing and preserving important monuments of modern architecture .
The value of Malmi Airport is immensely increased by the fact that it is in lively use serving its original purpose. The National Board of Antiquities Finland has defined Malmi Airport as a site of national significance. Elsewhere in Europe, historic airports are now being protected - e.g. Le Bourget in Paris and Speke in Liverpool - even when they have not remained nearly as original as Malmi. Malmi Airport as a functioning whole is a world-class cultural treasure. Reducing it to a dead torso of an airfield would be widely condemned both at home and abroad.
8) The capital region needs a backup airport.
|During the civil service strike of 1986, Malmi Airport made air traffic to the capital possible.|
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 long civil service strike, when domestic air traffic was smoothly taken care of with lighter aircraft via Malmi Airport.
Preserving Malmi Airport is supported also by considerations of maintenance support performance in times of crisis. For instance, Stockholm in Sweden has five 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 when the main airport at Helsinki-Vantaa or the roads leading there are unusable due to accidents, catastrophies, war, or strike.
9) A large population and efficient public transportation are the lifeline of Malmi Airport!
The exceptionally versatile aviation activities of Malmi Airport - official flights by the Border Guard and the police, education to various aviation-related professions, cargo and passenger traffic, hobby and youth activities - are completely dependent on the housing and livelihood offered by the capital, the public transports and communications as well as the other aviation-related education services. If these benefits are lost, the bottom will fall off from the nationally important aviation activities which thrive at Malmi and earned the Airport an honorary group diploma from the World Air Sports Federation FAI in 1996 .
Along with Malmi Airport, Finland would forever lose the keys to the fastest-growing means of transportation and its business and livelihood structures in the capital region. Another airfield can never again be established in Helsinki. The activities at Malmi cannot survive being dispersed; except for a few aviation activities by the authorities, closing down Malmi Airport would mean the final, irreversible destruction of its activities and aviation infrastructure.
10) Right now, the value of Malmi Airport is growing at record rate.
Passenger air traffic is undergoing the biggest upheaval in its history. The old cost structures of state-owned "flag carrier" airlines, the conquests of information technology and the general acceptance of competition laws of market economy (the Open Skies Agreements) are creating room for the success of low-cost airlines, cheaper prices and dramatic growth forecasts for air traffic.
In the 1990's, the growth of air traffic has followed the steep curves of the forecasts with amazing accuracy. Already in 1997, measured by value, more than half of all cargo in the world was transported by air. The recession after the 9/11 terrorist attacks is also temporary. The long-term STATFOR forecast published by the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) predicts a growth in air traffic of a factor 1.7...2.2 by 2025 . A similar forecast applies to Sweden, and for the Baltic states the forecast is even higher. If even the lowest growth estimate is realized, the expanded capacity of Helsinki-Vantaa Airport will be full even if none of the small aircraft serving the general aviation of the capital region use it.
The latest aviation technology has brought condemned airports surrounded by city structure (so called city airports) back to business at increasing pace all over the world. The resurrection of the once-condemned Bromma Airport in Stockholm and its fast favorable development are a strong nearby example of a global trend. Even if the traffic at Malmi is not increased, with the growth and development of aviation its meaning as a versatile aviation education center will be an irreplaceable investment and asset to Helsinki.
In light of all the above, it must be concluded that the image of Malmi Airport as "expensive building land going to waste", as presented by the promoters of housing construction on the site, is extremely shortsighted, oversimplified to the limit, and erroneous at closer inspection.
Protection by the State and the Parliament - based on the legal land cession agreement valid until 2034 for starters - is probably the only salvation if the City of Helsinki is unable to understand the value of the Airport. A national and international cultural treasure and traffic lane must not be destroyed by local-level decisions, especially if inadequate cooperation capability of the municipalities in the capital region, pointed out in a recent OECD report, is a contributing factor.
|If Malmi Airport is closed down, Helsinki will become the foremost aviation backwater in Finland!|
 Statement of CAA Finland concerning Malmi Airport (in Finnish)
 Flight Safety Authority Annual Report 2002 p. 5; see also Flight Safety Authority Annual Report 2000 p. 5
 Civil Aviation Administration Annual Report 2002
 T. Kopomaa, R. Manninen: "Malmi - no logo?". Publications of Helsinki City Planning Department 2002:13 (in Finnish only)
 Malmi Aviation Club, statement concerning the report on replacement arrangements of Malmi Airport (in Finnish only)
 Statements of the Tapanila Society concerning Malmi Airport (in Finnish only)
 Friends of Malmi Airport Society: History
 Friends of Malmi Airport Society: Common misconceptions / Need of building land
 Helsinki City Planning Department: Planning Overview 2003, section "General Plan 2002" (in Finnish only)
 Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, Bulletins 3 May 2001 and 2 October 2004 (in Finnish only)
 MBS - MaTaPuPu Birding Society: Malmi Airport (in Finnish only)
 World Monuments Watch: List of 100 Most Endangered Sites 2006
 DoCoMoMo Finland
 FAI General Awards: Honorary Group Diplomas 1996
 EUROCONTROL: STATFOR Long-Term Forecast (2004-2025)