Helsinki … our hillbilly capital

My current hometown Nurmes, located among North Karelian forests, made national headlines 36 years ago when a rag was made and the effects of which extend up to the present time. “Mitä missä milloin” citizen’s yearbook 1982 (still published annually) describes the events on March 12, 1981 (page 53):

"Nocturnal toil in Nurmes. Two of the town bulldozers reduced the controversial Old Hospital to a pile of logs in the darkness of night. In the morning, the town was served a six-month demolition stay notification by the North Karelia provincial government. Disturbing the townsfolk’s sleep was rationalized on, among other things, by the claim that one did not want to disturb pedestrians with the demolition work. The Finnish Government had advised its position in January – on appeal by Upper Karelian Fine Arts Association - that the Old Hospital and adjacent buildings, are culturally and historically particularly significant".

In the aftermath some who acted on behalf of the town received a slap on the wrist by either of the overseers of legality likely because of violation of the principles of good administrative practice (existence of the temporary demolition stay was already known informally - I have not seen the documents, but once I attended a function, in which one of the participants had to explain his actions). The result of this scolding is still the same in any case – the hospital complex remains demolished.

In my former hometown Helsinki one has long debated the fate of Malmi Airport in turn. As the State retreated its airfield operations the City of Helsinki Real Estate Department now allows temporary continuation of operations on segments of the airport area. However, negotiations regarding aircraft storage that proceeded “in harmony” ended in a rude awakening by The Real Estate Department’s Premises Centre: aeroplanes must leave by mid-May (the Premises Centre is subordinate to Deputy Mayor of Real Estate and City Planning Anni Sinnemäki who supports the airfield’s redevelopment to a housing estate).

It seems that the hangar will be vacated, so that jumble sales and rave parties can be had there. Such a change of purpose for a building that is tailor-made for storing aircraft is as "brilliant" as the destruction of a building slated for preservation in the dead of night "in order not to disturb pedestrians". Of course, there is a difference here, as nothing has been eradicated in Malmi once and for all yet. However, partisan aspirations shine miles away.

Helsinki was one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2000. The City’s forested surroundings, in turn, are easily observable with both domestic and foreign eyes. The undermining process (English abstract on page three) of a functioning Malmi Airport has had its obscurities both on municipal and governmental level even before this turn of events. Henceforth, I would like to grant my former hometown gold medal in the hillbilly capital contest of the year – hopefully as the sole contestant.

This is an English version of my blog entry in Finnish. However, hyperlinks are partially dissimilar as I have tried to find English sources to make the blog more apprehensible to foreign readers.

As it happens, news about the World Economic Forum report on travel and tourism were published two days after my original blog entry. Spain is considered number one because, among other things (page 306):

“Spain attains the 1st place globally in the global T&T competitiveness index for the second time. Spain's success can be attributed to its unique offer of both cultural (2nd) and natural (9th) resources, combined with sound tourism service infrastructure (2nd), air transport connectivity (9th) and strong policy support (5th)…”

On the other hand (page 158):

“Finland takes the 33rd position, 11 positions less than the previous edition. Finland maintains its main competitive advantages: it remains the safest destination globally, despite rising concerns in most of Europe, including Finland, regarding terrorism. Finland continues to be one of the most environmentally sustainable countries (5th), one of the strongest human resources and labour markets (6th), ICT readiness (6th) and efficient business environment (9th). Though Finland has managed to make slight improvements to its price competitiveness (112th), thanks to lower hotel and fuel prices, air connectivity options have declined significantly (30th, losing 7 places). Less available routes and operating airlines have impacted both arrivals (decreased by 6% decline in 2 years) as well as departures. At the same time, there has also been a decline in the attractiveness of Finland's natural resources (76th), with the number of searches relating to natural tourism activities decreasing (61st). This may be due to less effective marketing activity to attract tourists (76th), increased competition from other destinations and weaker demand from traditional source markets. Restoring air connectivity and developing a new proposition that better values the natural and cultural resources of the country would be important factors to improve the competitiveness of the T&T sector.”

It is well known that Spain preserves its ancient architecture. But they also understand the significance of living transport heritage unlike the City of Helsinki (see also how bluntly our leading newspaper puts it: "The end of Malmi Airport is at hand"). A lesson to be learnt?

Regards, Kalevi Kämäräinen 

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Above Kalevi Kämäräinen describes well the questionable practices employed by the City of Helsinki, in its effort to destroy for good the second busiest airport of Finland, without providing any alternative site for general aviation. Malmi Airport also has remarkable historical significance to the Finnish nation. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helsinki-Malmi_Airport

The exceptionally well preserved pre-World War II aviation milieu of Malmi Airport has also received international recognition. It has been selected to the worldwide List of 100 Most Endangered Cultural Sites 2004 by the World Monuments Fund, and re-selected to the 2006 list. The Airport is also included in the Finnish selection of the international DoCoMoMo Workgroup dedicated to cataloguing and preserving buildings, monuments and sites of the modern movement. On 16 March 2016, Europe's leading cultural heritage organization Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute selected Malmi Airport as one of the seven most endangered cultural heritage sites in Europe 2016.

The cultural vandalism and insane destructive action against Finnish aviation by the City Council of Helsinki is pursued on the pretext that there is allegedly a shortage of land in the City of Helsinki for apartment construction purposes. However, Malmi's land area covers only 1.6 % of the total area of the City, and despite the grab of 25 square kilometres of land from the neighbouring municipality of Sipoo in 2009, Helsinki has deliberately neglected to carry out the planning procedures there required for area development.

The shortage of construction land surprisingly does not prevent London City Airport from operating in the centre of the capital, so it is utterly ridiculous to pretend that the only place remaining for building in Helsinki is in the middle of Malmi runways. Sadly, a more likely explanation to the campaign of abolishing Malmi airport at whatever cost is the envy and jealousy inherent in our national character at its worst. Those in need of apartments are only being exploited as pawns in the political power games, fuelled by an emotional leftist crusade against "the rich elite" that can afford flying. Never mind all the jobs lost, the worsening conditions of Helsinki sea rescue in the future due to longer response times for helicopter operations from Helsinki-Vantaa airport, and the business opportunities lost by short-sightedness despite the advances of aviation technology predicted for the near future. See: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22229674-40... Never mind losing the only alternative to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, should that ever be closed for whatever reason.

As a last resort, a citizens' initiative was made to protect Malmi Airport by law, the "Lex Malmi" that will in time receive due process in the Finnish Parliament, with the hope that rational sense would prevail over destructive frenzy in safeguarding Finnish general aviation of the future.

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