The history of Ivalo Airport dates back to 1943, when it was built by German soldiers. The Germans also destroyed the airport when they withdrew from Lapland at the end of World War II. The airport was renovated in 1950 and Aero Oy, nowadays called Finnair, started operating flights between Rovaniemi and Ivalo in 1955.
In the 1950s, Ivalo Airport was also important for gold miners, who were flown to the wilderness from the airport.
As passenger volumes increased in the 1970s, the airport was expanded. In 1975, a year-round scheduled flights began between Helsinki and Ivalo. Finavia has selected Ivalo as its airport of the year twice, in 2001 and 2017.
Image: Passenger and air traffic control building at Ivalo Airport, circa 1960s. The Finnish Aviation Museum.
The number of flights varies according to the season
Ivalo Airport is located in Törmänen, approximately 11 kilometres from the centre of Ivalo and 25 kilometres from Saariselkä.
The high season lasts from December to Easter, during which time there are several take-offs and landings each day. During the summer, air traffic is most active from Midsummer to the end of August.
Jarmo Pyhäjärvi, who has been Airport Manager for 10 years, says that passenger volumes have recovered well after the COVID-19 pandemic. Air traffic has recovered to a good level and the year has been busy so far.
The airport is an interesting stage for TV shows and films
Ivalo Airport enables seamless connections for the tourism industry up north. The location of the airport is appreciated by holidaymakers, but it is also an interesting destination for many others. For example, rally teams and tyre manufacturers test their equipment and products in Ivalo on a regular basis.
Film and television productions have also shown interest in the northern airport.
“For example, the first series of the TV show Arctic Circle was filmed here, and filming of the new series will begin in the spring. Similarly, the film SkimbaGirls gave the airport some media exposure. In a special episode of the TV show The Grand Tour in 2022, Ivalo Airport was in the limelight as the stars of the programme drove around the airport in their cars.”
Image: King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium at Ivalo Airport on 19 June 1969. / Markku Lepola, Finnish Heritage Agency.
Pyhäjärvi says that production companies are very grateful for the smooth and flexible way in which the preparatory work and the actual filming are handled at the airport. A letter of thanks from the Bank of Finland is another excellent example of good service.
“The heads of the European Central Bank arrived on a scheduled flight from Helsinki to Ivalo, and they were impressed by our service attitude here, at this small airport way up north. The Bank of Finland conveyed their thanks to us, and that was a nice feeling.”
Snowhow is key at the EU's northernmost airport
At Ivalo Airport, people are accustomed to a wide variety of weather conditions. Especially during the winter months, the weather can be challenging.
“Severe gales and snowstorms can be difficult weather conditions for air traffic. Our expertise and competence are key to ensuring good conditions on the runway. On one occasion, the weather was really rough, but the captain of the plane that was landing still decided to land here. The plane landed safely and as planned. Afterwards, the captain stated that they’d never experienced such a blizzard before.”
Image: Ivalo Airport in 2016.
Pyhäjärvi says that the most important thing in challenging weather conditions is to get the planes and their passengers down safely.
“That's the number one thing. We keep the runway clean, and our personnel's ‘snowhow’ really is on a high level. On winter storm days, we monitor weather forecasts particularly closely so that we can be prepared for rapid fluctuations in the weather.”
Main photo of the article: Ivalo Airport in 1956. / Matti Poutvaara, Finnish Heritage Agency