The Baltic Post, 25 June 2017
Making a welcome return to the Air Tattoo from the 14th to the 16th of July, 13 years after their last appearance, the Finnish Air Force Midnight Hawks will be bringing a Nordic flavour to the airshow this summer.
The fourth national aerobatic team to confirm its participation after the RAF Red Arrows, US Air Force Thunderbirds and Switzerland’s Patrouille Suisse, the Midnight Hawks will participate in the event with its formation of four British Aerospace Hawk Mk.51 jet trainers.
The Midnight Hawks were founded in 1997, making this the team’s 20th anniversary. Leading this year will be Capt Marc Fuss. The team’s name is a reference to the midnight sun, which shines across much of Finland during the high summer months.
The Finnish Air Force’s current aerobatic team celebrates the 20th anniversary of its establishment this year. The Midnight Hawks fly four BAe Hawk Mk.51 trainers operated by Hävittäjälentolaivue 41, the air arm’s fighter training school, based at Kauhava. Their pilots are instructors from that unit. While the Midnight Hawks’ foreign appearances are rare events, the team has displayed at events in Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden, as well as in the UK for RIAT 2004 – the last time the Midnight Hawks visited these shores. Finland was one of the first export customers for the very successful Hawk, originally ordering the type in 1980.
The history of the Midnight Hawks had already begun before World War II, when the Finnish Air Force Academy used Gloster Gamecocks and other aircraft for display flying. The tradition of formation flying continued and it became a trademark of the Finnish Air Force Training Air Wings annual Midnight Summer Airshow. Midnight Summer Day is normally the third Saturday of June.
Originally the show was just the Training Air Wing’s Midnight summer party for the families, relatives and the people of the Kauhava village where the Academy was located. Over the years this event has grown to become the Midnight Summer Airshow and Festival with many foreign participants and over 20,000 spectators. Because of the midnight sun the airshow starts at around 7 p.m. and lasts until midnight when the last display is flown.
Finnish Air Force Training Air Wing’s flight instructors have always performed formation flying in the Midnight Summer Airshow. The formation flying had been part of the normal training syllabus and no special team names or aircraft had been used. There had been several nicknames for the teams, often based on the name of the team leader, but no official team name had been used until 1997.
The flight instructors had simply showed their skills and aircraft to the spectators. The aircraft flown have been Training Air Wing’s standard trainer aircraft. During 60′ to 80′ Saab Safir and Fouga Magister were used, and from the beginning of the 1980s Valmet Vinka and BAe Hawk Mk 51. So for the last forty or so years the Finnish Air Force Training Air Wing has had two formation display teams; one flying with the basic prop trainer, and the second with the jet fighter trainer. Both teams had performed almost solely at the Midnight Sun Airshow once in a summer.
During the 1990s the Finnish Air Force Training Air Wing’s jet display team started to expand their appearances, performing in other airshows than just the ‘Midnight Sun’. The sight of four BAe Hawks in a tight formation became familiar to thousands of airshow spectators around the country. The jet display team started to operate more and more like an official display team, even though it was still without name or official status. 1997 saw the change.
In the biggest ever airshow in Finland, Oulu International Airshow, the Finnish Air Force Training Air Wing’s jet display team appeared as the Midnight Hawks. Immediately the name spread around the country and the wider world – the Finnish Air Force Display Team Midnight Hawks had been born.
All the members of the team are active flight instructors in the Finnish Air Force Academy, and in active service. They usually hold the rank of Captain or Major.
The Midnight Hawks perform classic formation flying. During the show the team displays in front of the crowd line all the time. The team’s trademark is a very tight diamond formation.
The most important display for the team is still the Midnight Summer Airshow at Kauhava Airport, the home of Finnish Air Force Training Air Wing and the Midnight Hawks. The Midnight Hawks and their predecessors have always had their display slot close to midnight, and therefore the team can honestly say that it has flown more night jet formation displays than any other team or group in the world. They also are the only display team in the world which actively has trained for formation flying at night.
Finnish weather conditions can be very challenging and so the team devotes a lot of practice and preparation to the low level displays that they are often required to perform.
The Midnight Hawks use standard Finnish Air Force BAe Systems Hawk MK 51 and MK 51A aircraft from Fighter Squadron 41. They are not dedicated display team aircraft, but selected within the squadron pool of the operational aircraft which currently are available at the time. During the week team’s aircraft fly advance combat training missions according to training syllabi. The aircraft are painted in the standard Finnish air force camouflage.