18.5.2017 at 09:00
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History of Finnish Aviation: the 1920s – Commercial airline Aero founded

The 1920s saw the start of commercial aviation in Finland, with the birth of the first airline, Aero. Today it is known as Finnair.

To celebrate Finland’s centenary, Finavia is publishing a ten-part series on the history of Finnish aviation from the last ten decades. This second installment focuses on the 1920s.

The 1920s was an important period in the development of international aviation. The first commercial airlines were founded after the First World War in Europe and the United States, and the first regular flight routes between big cities were established. In the beginning, fleets consisted mostly of ex-military aircraft modified for commercial use. As passenger air travel was still very costly, in the early 1920s commercial aviation focused more on cargo and airmail services.

The greatest international sensation of the decade was Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927, which also spurred on the development of aviation around the world.

The first Finnish airline, Aero, is founded

Finland too saw the dawn of commercial aviation activity in the early 1920s as the first Finnish airline, Aero – now known as Finnair – was founded in the fall of 1923. In fact, Finnair is the fifth oldest airline still in operation.

Aero’s first ever flight was flown in March 1924 from Helsinki to Tallinn.

Aero’s first ever flight was flown in March 1924 from Helsinki to Tallinn on a Junkers F-13 aircraft. Even though the model could fit four passengers, the first flight carried only 162 kilos of airmail.

In its first year, Aero carried a total of 269 passengers. In Finland and elsewhere, air travel was still a luxury, reserved for a small and privileged elite.

In its early years, Aero’s planes were all seaplanes that took off from Aero’s seaplane harbor in Katajanokka, Central Helsinki. In the winter, skis were fitted on the aircraft so they could take off and land on ice.

Aero’s Junkers hydroplane bringing passengers to Katajanokka in 1924. Photo: Rosenberg Harald 1924 / Helsinki City Museum

In the early years, Aero had flight routes only to Tallinn and Stockholm. Domestic flights within Finland only began in the late 1930s.

A hydroplane, three passengers and two pilots photographed in Helsinki in the late 1920s. Photo: Foto Roos, 1928–1929 / Helsinki City Museum

Brothers Karhumäki built their own planes

When talking about Finnish aviation in the 1920s, one must also mention the three pioneering brothers Niilo, Valto and Uuno Karhumäki. The brothers successfully built altogether four small aircraft during the 1920s: Karhu 1, Karhu 2, Karhu 3 and Tiira. Later, they went on to commercial aviation business, starting their own aircraft factory and even their own airline the 1950s and 1960s called Kar-air.

Tiira, a two-seat wooden aircraft built by the Karhumäki brothers. The plane flew its maiden flight on 11th July 1929. Photo: Aarne Pietinen 1929 / Museovirasto – Musketti

The Finnish Air Defence Society, founded in 1925, was also an active supporter of Finnish aviation and the Finnish air forces in the 1920s. Pictured above is the association’s second airplane, Pilvetär, photographed in Helsinki’s Pihlajasaari beach in 1930.

Photo licenses: CC BY 4.0

The next part of this series will cover Finnish aviation in the 1930s.

Read the previous part about Finnish aviation in the 1910s. 

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