The Midnight Hawks air display team is the official aerobatic team of the Finnish Air Force. Flying four Hawk fast jets, the team has proudly presented the expertise and capabilities of the Finnish Air Force in air shows in Finland and abroad since 1997.
This spring the Midnight Hawks have been gearing up for the 2022 display season by training aerobatics routines with some updates to previously seen ones. They have three display sequences for different weather conditions. The good weather sequence is divided into three parts and the first features various manoeuvres flown mainly in the tight diamond formation. The second part showcases vertical manoeuvres and the third breaking and forming up above the pole of the display. In the medium weather sequence, the vertical manoeuvres and splits have been substituted with manoeuvres that can be performed at a lower altitude. The sequence for the lowest cloud ceiling includes horizontal manoeuvres and formation changes.
All four pilots on the display team serve as qualified flight instructors at the Air Force Academy, Fighter Squadron 41, and rehearse formation aerobatics on top of their teaching responsibilities. Flying in the Midnight Hawks requires commitment, gruelling training and challenging oneself on a daily basis; nevertheless, being a member of the display team is considered an honour. The team members look forward to the season and welcome all viewers to watch the performances in air shows both at home and abroad.
Midnight Hawks Team for the 2022 Season
The Midnight Hawks team composition for the year 2022 has seen some changes. The new team leader is the previous three-season right wing pilot, Captain Juho Tervahartiala. Replacing Tervahartiala on the right wing is last year’s rookie, Captain Joonas Sunnari. The left wing position continues to be flown by Captain Jussi Nokso and the slot by Captain Oskari Tähtinen.
The new additions to the team this year are two rookies, or sevens. For the 2022 season, they are Captain Petteri Wahlgren and Captain Ville Kirijatshenko. The job of the sevens is to learn the tricks of the trade and support the Midnight Hawks from the ground. The previous three-season team leader, Captain Vesa Loukko, is taking on the ground supervisor’s role.
All Air Force flight operations including the Midnight Hawks aerobatics displays would not be possible without the tireless and meticulous work and support of the aircraft maintenance personnel. Midnight Hawk number 10, Senior Engineering Officer, Captain Marko Nieminen is in charge of the pre-flight inspections and maintenance of the four display and one backup aircraft. He has a team of six aircraft technicians selected from the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assisting him.
Midnite 1 / Team Leader Captain Juho Tervahartiala
This year leading the team with the number 1 ship is Captain Juho Tervahartiala, 33. The previous Midnite 3, Tervahartiala is flying on the display team for the fourth season now. Juho hails from Raisio and has graduated from the Raisio Upper Secondary School in 2007. Prior to admission to the pilot reserve officer course, Juho served in the Navy for 6 months.
After completing Pilot Reserve Officer Course 83 in 2009, Juho was selected for Cadet Course 96 to continue pursuing the career of a military pilot. When his primary and basic training on the Vinka and two years of academic study were over, Juho was stationed to the former Training Air Wing in Kauhava in autumn 2011. Following basic Hawk training, he graduated as an officer in the of autumn 2012. His Hawk training continued after graduation in Kauhava, and in autumn 2014 he enrolled into the flight instructor training programme at the Air Force Academy.
When the Hawks were redeployed to the Air Force Academy in the beginning of 2015, Tervahartiala carried on his service in Tikkakoski becoming a Hawk flight instructor at Fighter Squadron 41. Juho currently serves as an instructor pilot in the squadron coordinating and conducting Hawk flight training for cadets. Thus far Juho has amassed over 1400 flight hours, of which about 1000 on the Hawk.
In the Midnight Hawks, Juho plays a big part in coordinating and leading the entire display team. Not only planning and rehearsing the routines but also performing the aerobatic displays necessitate an unyielding attitude and leadership. Moreover, as team leader, Juho is responsible for the safe execution of the display sequences and adherence to restrictions and regulations.
During leisure, Juho keeps busy with his family and various motor vehicles involving disassembly and repair work. In winter, you might spot Juho at Laajavuori on his skis and in summer along the trails on his mountain bike.
Midnite 2 / Left Wing Captain Jussi Nokso
Flying the left wing number 2 ship of the Midnight Hawks in 2022 for the second consecutive year is Captain Jussi Nokso, 36. Jussi comes from Kurikka and is a 2005 graduate of the local upper secondary school. On the completion of Pilot Reserve Officer Course 80, Jussi began studying on Cadet Course 93. After two years on the Vinka, he transferred to Hawk training in Kauhava in the autumn of 2008 and graduated with a Bachelor of Military Sciences in the following autumn.
Post-bachelor’s, Jussi and his coursemates were the first cohort to study on the new pilot programme master's course. When a year of academic study was over, it was time to return to Kauhava to receive tactical flight training on the HW2 training syllabus. In the spring of 2011, Nokso transferred to F/A-18 training at Lapland Air Command, where he served until the summer of 2016. At the time, he was assigned to an instructor pilot post at the Air Force Academy, Fighter Squadron 41, where he continues to work today.
Currently Nokso serves as the Commander of the 3rd Flight at Fighter Squadron 41. His responsibilities include not only flight instruction but also the Hawk programme and system development as well as the LVC functionality enhancement in Hawk training. Jussi has accumulated over 1500 flight hours in total with about 500 of those on the Hornet and 800 on the Hawk.
When not working, Jussi spends time with his family and playing various sports. Hobbies close to his heart are road cycling, going to the gym and information technology.
Midnite 3 / Right Wing Captain Joonas Sunnari
New on the right wing flying the number 3 ship in the line-up is Captain Joonas Sunnari, 34. Born and bred in Keminmaa, the gates of Lapland, Joonas graduated from the regional upper secondary school in the spring of 2007. During the summer of the same year he began his military service in the Air Force on Pilot Reserve Officer Course 82.
As a conscript Joonas decided to apply to the cadet course and in autumn 2008 he started studying on Cadet Course 95, Air Force Military Pilot programme. He graduated with a Bachelor of Military Sciences degree in autumn 2011, and continued in Hawk training alongside academic study until spring 2013 when he transferred to F/A-18 training at Lapland Air Command in Rovaniemi. He spent a total of six years there and in the summer of 2019, he was reassigned to the Air Force Academy Fighter Squadron 41 to work as a flight instructor.
In addition to instruction duties, Joonas serves as the Deputy Commander of the 1st Flight at Fighter Squadron 41. In collaboration with the flight commander he is responsible for the squadron personnel and aircraft resourcing as well as daily planning of flight operations. Currently his accumulated flight hours total over 1400, of which over 500 are on the Hornet.
Joonas devotes his free time to his family and hobbies that include working out, freeriding in winter and mountain biking in summer.
Midnite 4 / Slot Position Captain Oskari Tähtinen
Continuing to fly the slot on the number 4 ship in the Midnight Hawks for his third year in season 2022 is Jyväskylä-native Captain Oskari Tähtinen, 35. Oskari graduated from the long-established Jyväskylä Lyceum Upper Secondary School in the spring of 2006. The same summer, he began conscript service with the Air Force on Pilot Reserve Officer Course 81. As a natural continuum, Oskari pursued studies at the National Defence University on the military pilot track of Cadet Course 94. Oskari received a Bachelor of Military Sciences degree in autumn 2010 and he continued his Hawk training in Kauhava until spring 2012.
In the spring of 2012, Oskari transferred to Lapland Air Command in Rovaniemi to F/A-18 training. He worked in Rovaniemi for six years, and in summer 2018, he returned to his home turf to the Air Force Academy Fighter Squadron 41 to serve as an instructor pilot. On top of teaching, Tähtinen acts as the Deputy Commander of the 3rd Flight at Fighter Squadron 41 with responsibilities such as the Hawk programme and system development as well as the LVC functionality enhancement in Hawk training.
Oskari has clocked in over 1500 flight hours on military aircraft and about 600 of them on the Hornet. In addition, Oskari has made the mistake of taking up aviation as a hobby, so he currently has about 400 flight hours from the civil side under his belt.
Besides flying, Oskari enjoys versatile ways of keeping fit. At the moment the activities closest to his heart are cycling, scuba diving, travelling and photography. Captain Tähtinen’s photos can be seen in various Air Force publications and for example on the Midnight Hawks’ Instagram account.
Midnite 7 Commentator / Rookie Captain Petteri Wahlgren
In season 2022 one of the two new team members designated the number 7 is Captain Petteri Wahlgren, 32. Petteri grew up in Jyväskylä and graduated from the Cygnaeus Upper Secondary School in spring 2008. The same summer, Petteri began his military service on Pilot Reserve Officer Course 83 at the Air Force Academy. After conscription Petteri applied and was selected to continue studies on Cadet Course 96 Air Force Military Pilot programme, which he completed and graduated with a Bachelor of Military Sciences in August 2012. This was followed by advanced Hawk training at the former Training Air Wing in Kauhava, from where he, like some other team members, continued to F/A-18 Hornet training at Lapland Air Command in Rovaniemi.
Petteri completed a Master of Military Sciences degree in the summer of 2018 and served in Rovaniemi altogether for six years until the summer of 2020 when he transferred back to the home ground to take up flight instruction at the Air Force Academy Fighter Squadron 41. Now Petteri works in the Tactics Office of Fighter Squadron 41.
Thus far Petteri has recorded nearly 1300 hours of flight time, of which nearly 700 on the Hornet. In his free time, he likes to play various sports, and especially racket games are close to his heart.
Midnite 7 Commentator / Rookie Captain Ville Kirijatshenko
The other new member joining the team also as number 7 in season 2022 is Captain Ville Kirijatshenko, 31, from Saarijärvi. Ville completed the local upper secondary school in spring 2009 and soon afterwards he began military service on Pilot Reserve Officer Course 84. After conscription Ville continued his education on Cadet Course 97 Air Force Military Pilot programme. In the summer of 2013 he finished three years of course work and graduated with a Bachelor of Military Sciences and then began Hawk training in Kauhava.
At the end of 2014 the Training Air Wing was closed down, and as the Hawks were redeployed to their new home base, the Air Force Academy, Ville transferred along for six months before moving on to the controls of an F/A-18 Hornet at Karelia Air Command (KAC) in Rissala. Ville graduated with a Master of Military Sciences in the year 2019 and served at KAC altogether for 5 years until summer 2020 when he transferred back to the Air Force Academy Fighter Squadron 41 to begin fight instruction. Presently Ville serves as the 2nd Flight’s Phase IV Flight Training Officer and his responsibilities in the squadron include the coordination and implementation of advanced Hawk training for the oldest student cohort.
Ville has now over 1000 accumulated flight hours with approximately 500 of them on the Hornet. Ville’s hobbies include motor sports, ball games and music, among other activities.
Midnite 0 Supervisor Captain Vesa Loukko
The season 2022 supervisor is the team’s grand old man, Kauhajoki-born Captain Vesa Loukko, 36. Vesa graduated upper secondary school in 2003 and began conscript service on the Elementary Pilot Training Course in Kauhava in 2004. After conscription, he continued his studies on Cadet Course 92 and graduated with a Master of Military Sciences in 2009. After finishing advanced training on the Hawk in 2010, Vesa transferred to F/A-18 Hornet training to Satakunta Air Command in Pirkkala. In the summer of 2013 after four years in Pirkkala, Vesa took an instructor pilot position at the Training Air Wing in Kauhava, from where he moved to Tikkakoski with the redeployment of Hawk aircraft in the beginning of 2015.
The Midnight Hawks display team gained Vesa in 2016. He flew three seasons as the right-wing number 3 and in 2019, he started as the team leader flying the number 1 ship for three more. The upcoming season is the seventh on the team for Vesa. As the team supervisor is responsible for monitoring the display team’s performances from the ground. If needed, he will guide the team’s manoeuvring on the radio. The aerobatics display safety and visual effects planning and implementation are also among his responsibilities.
In addition to his duties with the Midnight Hawks, Vesa currently serves as the Commander of the 2nd Flight at Fighter Squadron 41 where his duties include for example administration and leadership of the squadron’s flight training objectives, contents and implementation. Vesa has accumulated over 2000 flight hours, of which about 600 hours on the Hornet and 1400 on the Hawk.
Midnite 10 Senior Engineering Officer First Lieutenant Marko Nieminen
The team’s senior engineering officer, or number 10, is Captain Marko Nieminen from Laukaa, Central Finland. After upper secondary school Nieminen left for Halli, Jämsä, to do his military service on the Aircraft Maintenance Non-Commissioned Officer Course where he was once and for all bitten by the military aviation bug, and began the aircraft maintenance basic course in Lappeenranta on completion of conscription.
He was stationed to Karelia Air Command in 1998 after graduating from the aircraft maintenance basic course. His work with the Hawk fleet began already then but in 2007 he swapped the fighters to transport and liaison aircraft in the Supporting Air Operations Squadron housed at the time at the Air Force Academy in Tikkakoski. His next reassignment took place in connection with the Defence Forces Reform in 2015 when the Supporting Air Operations Squadron was relocated to Satakunta Air Command. He worked in Pirkkala only for a short while before transferring back to Tikkakoski in the spring of 2017 to his current duties as the Hawk specialist of Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 41 at the Air Force Academy in Tikkakoski. Today he is a section leader at the Line Maintenance Flight and responsible for the maintenance and airworthiness of the fleet used in daily flight operations.
In the years 2018-2019 Nieminen was in charge of the Midnight Hawks display team’s aircraft systems and now he serves his third year as number 10. Although his career in the Midnight Hawks is well established, Nieminen has also had over 20 years of Air Force experience with several different aircraft types, such as the Hornet, Pilatus, and C-295M.
On the days off, he finds himself preoccupied with farming and forestry on his farm in Hankasalmi and hobbies including running, cross-country and downhill skiing as well as snowmobiling.