Fascinating, friendly and fun
The Finnish Aviation Museum is a short walk from the airport in the futuristically sounding Aviapolis area. As well as the impressive main collection there are also three flight simulators for an even more memorable day out.
What started out as a small collection in an airport corridor has now grown, thanks to the hard work of volunteers, into a professional and fascinating museum, a must for anyone interested in aircraft, Finnish history or great engineering.
The main collection is divided between two hangars packed like a grandparent’s attic. They are full of both military and commercial aeroplanes, helicopters, recovered fighter engines, beautifully hand-carved wooden propellers and many other fascinating items connected with Finland and flying.
One of the nicest things about the museum is its hands-on nature. Though the hangars can be chilly in winter (take warm clothing), the cold is soon forgotten as you begin to explore the impressive collection. Climb in and out of authentic wartime cockpits, board a 1953 passenger plane, walk along its aisle and try out the surprisingly comfy seats.
There are guided tours available (free in Finnish on Saturdays at 13.00) and are recommended if you are interested in the stories behind the objects including the little known history of the Sea Plane factory on Suomenliina Island, the origins of the only existing Soviet Polikarpov I-16 bi-plane in the world and the curious use of the swastika symbol during the first era of the Finnish air force.
Perhaps the most exciting attractions for the real flying fanatics are the museum’s three flight simulators. The modern Diamond-DA42 is also used for training by professional pilots. In the vintage Piper you can sit with the entire family in the seats next to you. Or the notoriously tricky Messerschmitt BF 109 Fighter in which you can fly over accurate images of 1940s Helsinki and even participate in historical aerial warfare scenarios. Each simulator combines authentic cockpit seats and controls with huge computer displays and sound effects. Effects that will soon have you gripping the controls with nervous excitement. It’s recommended to book the simulators in advance or you can ask on the day if an instructor is available for a drop-in session.
The museum is open every day of the week. It also has a restaurant and a shop with every flight related souvenir imaginable as well as one of the best collections of Finnish aeroplane model kits in the country. There are special event days where normally reserved areas of the museum are open to the public (check website for details – also in English).
The museum is in the Vantaa area of Helsinki, close to the airport. The easiest way to arrive is by train from the city centre. From the central station take either the I or P train to the Aviapolis station and then follow the signs to the museum, look out for the shiny twin-engine plane next to the museum entrance.