For the 2023 season the Finnish Air Force’s official aerobatic team, the Midnight Hawks, combines new and familiar manoeuvres for displays in Finland, Sweden and Belgium.
As last season, at number 1, the Midnignt Hawks are led by Captain Juho Tervahartiala. Also familiar from the previous season is the number 3 on the right wing, captain Joonas Sunnari. Joining the formation are Captains Ville Kirijachenko and Petteri Wahlgren. Kirijachenko on the left wing as Midnight Hawk 2 and Wahlgren in the number 4 position.
The performance flight series is a combination of familiar and new manoeuvres for the audience. The whole display is dynamic and versatile, and the basis for it was being formed towards the end of last season. One of the new moves in the series is a spectacular fan break and the drawing of a heart in the sky. There are separate flight series for different weather conditions, and there is also a counterpart to the manoeuvres in the series of other weather conditions.
“The training has gone excellently. The conditions have been favourable and the new members have also been able to focus on flying, and the series is great. Especially the vortex and the heart are spectacular movements,” says Captain Tervahartiala.
For the first time, the audience will be able to admire Midnight Hawks’ at Satakunta Air Command’s Military Aviation Careers Day on May 10th. After that, the team will perform at the Finnish Defence Forces’ flag celebration on 4 June in Jyväskylä and at the Finnish Aviation Association’s main air show, Turku Air Show, on 17–18 June. Outside of Finland, the Midnight Hawks will perform in August at the Försvarsmaktens Flygdag in Sweden and in September at the Belgian Air Force Days.
“There’s a lot to learn, but it is going to be a spectacular display,” promises Captain Sunnari on the right wing.
The members of the Midnight Hawks’ emphasize that aerobatics is a team effort involving all involved. The team is a close-knit group that supports each other. Aerobatics is a demanding sport where the experiences of success are experienced together weld the group even more seamlessly.
“Being demanding also motivates us to move forward. What unites us is that we want to constantly develop and do better,” says Captain Ville Kirijachenko, who has risen to the left wing.
Tervahartiala praises the new pilots for having claimed their place right from the start. The new members also bring fresh ideas, a spirit of doing things and a fire of emotion to the group, which also inspires those who have previously flown in the department in a new way.
“I was nervous beforehand about how to cope with this, but this has been really rewarding. I am looking forward to presenting the results of our work to the public,” says Captain Petteri Wahlgren, who has become a new member of the queue.
Midnight Hawk number 7, Captain Lauri Lappalainen, is responsible for the narration and music of the Midnight Hawks show. He gains knowledge of how the team operators and is also the team manager for the 2023 season.
“It has been great to be able to follow the department’s activities both from the ground and from the air. I’m looking forward to the upcoming shows, and the highlight of the summer will definitely be the Turku air show, when you get to your home region to perform at the stand,” he says.
The team also has a supervisor, number 0, who is responsible for supervising the Midnight Hawks’ displays from the ground. Captain Oskari Tähtinen is in his first season as a supervisor. For the previous three seasons, Tähtinen flew in the number 4 position. Tähtinen says; “As a supervisor, it has been great to be able to admire the presentation of the department from the audience’s point of view for a long time. Although the series of performances is more challenging than before this year, the new members of the department in particular have shown their professionalism in how easy it seems to take over midnight department flying. I would venture to say that this season has an absolutely world-class show on offer, and one of the finest series in the history of the department!”
The Midnight Hawks displays is a team effort with Finnish Air Force technicians and mechanics making sure that the aircraft are kept serviceable throughout the season. This year, the team has a new technical director, Vääpeli Lasse Ahlgren.
“International show trips in particular are great opportunities to work together with mechanics and instructors. They are an interesting variation on everyday work” he says.
“As a result of the collaboration of the Midnight Hawks team, an inseparable ensemble is created, which the audience can enjoy at domestic and foreign air shows. The entire department is looking forward to the show season getting underway. This is the peak time and the peak phase of my career. I don’t know much finer” sums up Captain Kiriyachenko.