A brief history of Finnish gliding

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German glider Darmstadt landing to the field of Tuomarinkylä near Helsinki in autumn 1934.

Modern gliding was seen in Finland for the first time in 1934 as the German pilots performed soaring in three locations: Helsinki, Tampere and Viipuri. German visitors brought to Finland a Klemm tow-plane and four gliders: Grunau 9, Grunau Baby, Mü 3 Kakadu and Darmstadt. The tour was a success and the following winter many Finnish flight clubs started to build their own gliders.

Grunau Baby, Mü 3 Kakadu and Darmstadt at the field of Tuomarinkylä near Helsinki in autumn 1934.

Grunau Baby, Mü 3 Kakadu and Darmstadt at the field of Tuomarinkylä near Helsinki in autumn 1934.

The gliding school of Jämijärvi shown from a Grunau 9 in ’40s. The Jämijärvi airfield (EFJM) was the center of Finnish gliding over four decades. Late ’70s the gliding school was transferred to Räyskälä Aviation Center.

The gliding school of Jämijärvi shown from a Grunau 9 in ’40s. The Jämijärvi airfield (EFJM) was the center of Finnish gliding over four decades. Late ’70s the gliding school was transferred to Räyskälä Aviation Center.


Gliding center of Jämijärvi was established in 1935 and the first flights were made in July. Jämijärvi became a gliding center were hundreds of youngsters learned to fly. Many of them later became aviation professionals: pilots, mechanics and engineers.

A girl student glider pilot in Grunau 9 at Jämijärvi in early days. At that time also girls were eager to learn fly gliders.

A girl student glider pilot in Grunau 9 at Jämijärvi in early days. At that time also girls were eager to learn fly gliders.

A Grunau 9 over the hills of Jämijärvi.

A Grunau 9 over the hills of Jämijärvi.

The Grunau 9 was most common primary glider in Finland during ’30s and ’40s with 39 constructed. After a student pilot had learned the basics of flying with Grunau 9 he continued training with Grunau Baby.

Jämijärven perinnehuone

Grunau Baby OH-JÄMI 5 launch.

Kranich OH-KAA was the only two-seat glider in Finland until 1954 came first Bergfalkes.

Kranich OH-KAA was the only two-seat glider in Finland until 1954 came first Bergfalkes.

With the Grunau Baby pilots could also train cross country flying. In ’30s there were 33 Grunau Babys in Finland, none of them is airworthy nowadays. Other gliders used in Jämijärvi were Komar, Rhönbusard and late ’30s Weihe and a two-seat DFS Kranich.

The workshop of Jämijärvi was essential as new gliders were manufactured and old ones were prepared and overhauled. All gliders of the PIK series were constructed here, even the first PIK-20s.

The workshop of Jämijärvi was essential as new gliders were manufactured and old ones were prepared and overhauled. All gliders of the PIK series were constructed here, even the first PIK-20s.


”A heroic Weihe pilot" at Jämi in the golden years of gliding.

”A heroic Weihe pilot” at Jämi in the golden years of gliding.

In the late ’40s the students of aviation technology at Helsinki University began to design light sport planes, mostly gliders. The series is called PIK according students club Polyteknikkojen Ilmailukerho (Aviation Club of Helsinki University of Technology). The first successes were a training glider PIK-5 Cumulus, commonly known as Vitonen (Fiver), and a primary glider PIK-7 Harakka (Magpie). These were the most common gliders in Finnish flight clubs in the late ’40s and during ’50s. The Fivers and Magpies were manufactured in Jämijärvi workshop or in the flight clubs. Total of 34 Fivers were constructed and over 50 Magpies. At the present day there are five airworthy Fivers and couple of Magpies.

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PIK-7 Magpie was used as a primary glider before two-seat training. It was launched using a winch or two bungee, a substantial multi-stranded rubber band, which student pilots drew.

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A pilot of PIK-5a OH-PAC prepare to winch launch at Jämijärvi in early ’50s.


The PIK series continued in ’50s and ’60s with some top-class wooden gliders. The PIK-3 Kajava (Kittiwake) was selected as the second-best Standard Class glider by the OSTIV in 1958. In May 1961 the PIK-16 Vasama (Blunt Arrow) flew the maiden flight. In this glider wooden shell structure was developed to perfection. With the PIK-16 Juhani Horma won the third place of the Word Gliding Championship in Standard Class in Argentina in 1962. At the same year OSTIV selected the PIK-16 as the best Standard Class glider. PIK-16 gliders were sold in several countries around the globe.

The v-tail prototype of the PIK-16 Blunt Arrow in spring of 1961 at Jämijärvi.

The v-tail prototype of PIK-16 Blunt Arrow in spring of 1961 at Jämijärvi.

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The prototype of PIK-3 Kittiwake take-off for maiden flight in May 1958.


A PIK-16 over Jämijärvi in '60s.

A PIK-16 over Jämijärvi in ’60s.

In early ’70s PIK constructed the fiberglass glider PIK-20 for a 15 meters Class. It became soon a hit. In the 1976 World Gliding Championship at Räyskälä all the first three ranks were won with PIK-20. In ’70s most of the top glider pilots around the world flew with PIK-20. A total of 425 different models were manufactured until the end of the production in 1981.

PIK-20b manufacturing in '70s at the factory of Jämijärvi.

PIK-20b manufacturing in ’70s at the factory of Jämijärvi.

Nowadays the heritage of the vintage gliders is well preserved in Finland. For that purpose a club Oldtimer Finland was founded and the restoration of gliders is done in several workshops by flight clubs and individual enthusiasts. (See more about the subject from Restoration-page and more images of present day Finnish vintage gliders from the Gallery-page).

Harri Mustonen

More historic pictures here

Historic pictures gallery

 

 

VGC 2016