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Border Guard’s helicopter squadron rescues, patrols and fights fires – and is now based at Helsinki Airport

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The Finnish Border Guard’s Air Patrol Squadron found a new home at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in 2017.

In February 2017, the Finnish Border Guard Air Patrol Squadron moved from the Malmi airport to new, Finavia-owned premises in Helsinki-Vantaa.

The tasks of the Squadron include patrolling the borders, assisting police from the air, rescuing people at sea, and putting out forest fires.

“There are about 700 emergency response missions per year,” says the Deputy Commander of the Squadron, Ismo Siikaluoma.

On a typical rescue mission, there are four men in the helicopter. In addition to the commander and the co-pilot, there’s a mechanic, who takes care of the copter’s mechanics and operates the rescue winch, and a rescue swimmer, who descends with the help of the winch and a wire cable to help people in distress.

“The toughest missions are those that involve a small child in distress, that always feel personal to us,” says co-pilot Juho Tähtinen. “The most rewarding feeling on the other hand is when you know you’ve saved someone’s life.”

At Helsinki-Vantaa, the Air Squadron operates mainly H215 Super Puma helicopters and the slightly lighter, single-engine AgustaWestland 119 Ke Koala helicopters. Other aircraft from different bases in Finland also visit the Helsinki base for maintenance and other needs.

Co-pilot Tähtinen says that in the beginning the most challenging part of flying a helicopter was hovering in place:

“It has been compared to balancing a unicycle on a tennis ball, but I wouldn’t say it’s quite that difficult.”

And there is still a special thrill in being a helicopter pilot:

“The best part of this job is flying!” Tähtinen says.

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