Midnight Hawks Offer Diamond and Vertical Manoeuvres
The air display team’s season began with the Careers in Military Aviation Day in Tikkakoski, Finland.
In season 2022 the team is led by Captain Juho Tervahartiala. He has transitioned to the lead position from the right wing. On the left wing Captain Jussi Nokso flies the aircraft number 2 and in the slot Captain Oskari Tähtinen number 4. New on the right wing, flying the number 3 jet in the line-up is Captain Joonas Sunnari, who has advanced to the role from his earlier task of the seven.
The 2022 display season routine offers tried and tested manoeuvres from previous years but the sequence has been tweaked into a tighter and more dynamic one. It includes a part flown in a tight formation, showcasing manoeuvres executed in the team’s signature diamond as well as parts with vertical manoeuvres and splits. The team also has sequences for medium weather and low cloud ceilings.
The Midnight Hawks pilots describe the new display routine as one with non-stop thrills. The sequence features for example a four-ship line abreast loop, big T-loop and upper cut. Another manoeuvre to see is the barrel roll in which the leader flies inverted, paired with the slot pilot who mirrors him. The wing pilots stay slightly behind circling the lead and slot planes.
- It is a fun manoeuvre where we fly in circles around smoke trails. We get and stay fairly close. Number 2 and 3 are on opposite legs flying almost parallel. My role is to ensure the manoeuvre rolls nice and smooth and separation remains sufficient, Nokso tells.
- The barrel roll with the smokes is an impressive manoeuvre. It’s captivating to watch and impossible to fully take in on the first viewing, Tähtinen says.
New role and rhythm
Captain Tervahartiala deems the team leader role quite different from flying the wing position although the basics of formation flying stay essentially the same. In particular it means constant thinking ahead. The team leader carries the responsibility of the overall execution and control of the display, which requires pro-active thinking.
- As Team Leader, you are always half a minute to a minute ahead, thinking of how one manoeuvre or setting change is going to affect the rest. For example, how much a change in the power setting will affect your speed and altitude in half a minute and what should be done to reach an exact location within one minute, he says.
- Flying as the wing pilot, you were given clear visual signalling where to be in a certain situation. Now I have learned to be pro-active and plan where I want to be in each phase.
Joining the flying composition, Captain Joonas Sunnari has also experienced a big role shift in the Midnight Hawks. The intensive rehearsals in the spring and kick off of the display season have gone all right, in his opinion. Sunnari describes formation flying as more dynamic than other types of flight.
- Flying air displays requires considerable focus and there is no place for dropping out of the sequence. But even so, I feel like this is the best thing I've ever done in the Air Force. I get to work with a great bunch of people, doing enjoyable but extremely challenging things, he says.
Last season’s left wing pilot Captain Jussi Nokso and slot pilot Captain Oskari Tähtinen continue in their familiar roles. Despite keeping their positions and roles, both are adjusting to the new rhythm brought along with the new team leader.
- Although I flew the same position and a similar sequence last year, the orders this season are given in a somewhat altered way with a different rhythm. I’m still working on getting used to the new lead’s rhythms but all in all it has been a good start, Nokso tells.
The ground team includes the Midnight Hawks’ display commentator and music man, the seven - next season’s display pilot who is getting to know how the air display team works. This season the Midnight Hawks have a double seven as the line-up has been completed by two future display pilots: Captain Petteri Wahlgren and Captain Ville Kirijatshenko.
- Being selected to join is a welcome gesture of trust. Ville with his remarkable verbal skills takes care of commentating, whereas I am the music man, but we both do a great deal more too, Wahlgren says.
The display as a whole and its performance features are the responsibility of the team’s ground supervisor, who is currently Captain Vesa Loukko.
Follow the Midnight Hawks display season on the Air Force and Midnight Hawks social media accounts: