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 has been gearing up for the 2023 display season. The team has been training sequences with a number of updates compared with last year. The Midnight Hawks has three display sequences for different weather conditions. The good weather sequence is divided into three sections. The first section features various manoeuvres flown mainly in a tight diamond formation. The second section focuses on 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 replaced with manoeuvres that can be performed at a lower altitude. The sequence for the lowest cloud ceiling includes horizontal manoeuvres and formation changes.
All the pilots on the display team serve as qualified flight instructors at the Air Force Academy, Fighter Squadron 41. Serving as flight instructors is the pilots’ main job. They rehearse formation aerobatics on top of their teaching responsibilities. Flying in the Midnight Hawks requires commitment, gruelling training and constantly challenging oneself. Belonging to the team is an honour. The team members are already looking forward to the flight displays in the summer and wish all viewers welcome to watch the team’s performances in air shows at home and abroad.
Midnight Hawks Team for the 2023 Season
There have been slight changes to the composition of the team for season 2023. Captain Juho Tervahartiala, in the same position as last year, continues as the team leader. Captain Joonas Sunnari will be flying on the right wing. Ville Kirijatshenko and Petteri Wahlgren who doubled as sevens or rookies last year will join the flying composition this season with Kirijatshenko on the left wing and Wahlgren in the position of slot or no. 4.
Captain Lauri Lappalainen will join the team as a new member. In the 2023 season, Lappalainen will act in the role of no. 7 or rookie responsible for hosting the performances, music and the team’s social media production. Captain Oskari Tähtinen who flew no. 4 in previous years will transfer to the role of team supervisor.
Any of the activities of the Finnish Air Force, including the Midnight Hawks aerobatics displays, would not be possible without the tireless and meticulous work and support of the aircraft maintenance personnel. The Midnight Hawks no. 10, senior engineering officer, Sergeant Major Lasse Ahlgren, is in charge of the pre-flight inspections and maintenance of the four display and one backup aircraft. For this task, he is be assisted by an aircraft maintenance crew of six from the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
Midnite 1 / Team Leader Captain Juho Tervahartiala
Captain Juho Tervahartiala, aged 34, will continue as the team leader for his second season flying aircraft no. 1. For Tervahartiala, who used to fly no.3 on the right wing, this is the fifth consecutive year on the display team. Juho comes from Raisio and graduated from Raisio High School in 2007. Prior to being admitted to the Pilot Reserve Officer Course, Juho served in the Navy for 6 months.
In 2009, after completing Pilot Reserve Officer Course 83, Juho was selected for Cadet Course 96 to continue his studies pursuing the career of a military pilot. When his primary and basic training on the Vinka and two years of academic studies were over, Juho went to the former Training Air Wing in Kauhava in autumn 2011. Following basic Hawk training, he graduated as an officer in the autumn of 2012. His Hawk training continued after graduation in Kauhava, and in the autumn of 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 at the squadron as the Deputy Commander of the 2nd Flight. Thus far, Juho has amassed a total of about 1600 flight hours, of which over 1200 on the Hawk.
In the Midnight Hawks, as team leader, Juho plays a big part in coordinating and leading the entire display team. Not only planning and rehearsing the routines, but also performing the aerobatics displays, support activities included, 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 his free time, 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 Ville Kirijatshenko
This is the first aerobatics display season for Captain Ville Kirijatschenko, aged 32, flying the left wing no. 2 ship of the Midnight Hawks. Ville comes from Saarijärvi, and he graduated from Saarijärvi High School in 2009. That same year, he embarked on Pilot Reserve Officer Course 84 in Tikkakoski. He also worked as a part-time fire fighter at the Central Finland Rescue Services’ Saarijjärvi Fire Department. From the Pilot Reserve Officer Course, Ville was admitted to the Cadet Course 97 Air Force Pilot’s Programme at the National Defence University. He was assigned to the post of officer pilot in 2013, after which his pilot training continued at the Training Air Wing in Kauhava on the Hawk.
In 2015, Ville moved on to F/A-18 training at Karelia Air Command to serve at Fighter Squadron 31 in Rissala. Ville was to return back home in Central Finland in 2020 being employed as an air combat instructor in the ranks of Fighter Squadron 41 in Tikkakoski. After completing his bachelor’s studies at the Military Academy, Ville embarked on his master’s studies in the framework of collaboration with the University of Jyväskylä on the special physical education and physical education pedagogy programme. He graduated as a Master of Military Sciences in 2019.
At the moment, Ville is serving as an air combat instructor at Fighter Squadron 41 responsible for HW2 flight training. So far, Ville has amassed about 500 flight hours on the Hornet, 450 flight hours on the Hawk and 200 hours on the Vinka. Motor sports, including snowmobiling, karting, crosskart, water jet driving and motorcycling take the bulk of Ville’s free time. Ville’s hobbies also include cross-country and downhill skiing, swimming and ice hockey. You might also spot Ville performing with Ilontilaajat, a highly popular party band in which Ville plays keyboards.
Midnite 3 / Right Wing Captain Joonas Sunnari
ship on the right wing. Joonas, who comes from Keminmaa, the gates of Lapland, graduated from Keminmaa High School in the spring of 2007. In the summer of that year, Joonas reported for conscript service in the Air Force on Pilot Reserve Officer Course 82.
While in service, Joonas decided to apply to the Cadet Course, and in autumn 2008, he embarked on studies on the Cadet Course 95 Air Force Pilot’s Programme. He graduated with a Bachelor of Military Sciences degree in autumn 2011, and continued in Hawk training alongside academic studies until spring 2013. This is 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 assigned to the Air Force Academy to work as a flight instructor at Fighter Squadron 41.
On top of his flight instructor 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. So far, his accumulated flight hours total over 1500, of which over 500 are on the Hornet.
Joonas devotes his free time to his family and hobbies that include fitness, free riding in winter and mountain biking in summer.
Midnite 4 / Slot Position Captain Petteri Wahlgren
In display season 2023, Captain Petteri Wahlgren, 33, flies aircraft no. 4. Petteri comes from Jyväskylä and graduated from Cygnaeus High School in spring 2008. That same summer, Petteri signed up for conscript service on Pilot Reserve Officer Course 83 at the Air Force Academy.
After conscript service, Petteri continued studies on the Cadet Course 96 Air Force Pilot’s Programme, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Military Sciences degree in August 2012. This was followed by advanced Hawk training at the former Training Air Wing in Kauhava, from where he moved on to F/A-18 Hornet training at Lapland Air Command in Rovaniemi in 2014.
Petteri completed his 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 instructor duties at the Air Force Academy Fighter Squadron 41. Thus far, Petteri has amassed slightly less than 1400 flight hours, of which over 700 on the Hornet.
In his free time, he likes to do different kinds of sports, ice swimming and activities with his dog.
Midnite 7 Commentator / Rookie Captain Lauri Lappalainen
For season 2023, Captain Lauri Lappalainen, aged 31, joins the team as a rookie in the no. 7 role. Lauri comes from Naantali. He graduated from a high school in his home town in spring 2010. Lauri reported for military service that summer on Pilot Reserve Officer Course 85 at the Air Force Academy. After conscript service, Lauri was to begin studies at Tampere University of Technology, but his passion for flying, the great team spirit at the Air Force and his desire to challenge himself at the controls of a fighter jet made Lauri choose the Cadet Course 98 Air Force Pilot’s Programme over the University.
A career path typical of Air Force pilots took Lauri to Lapland Air Command in Rovaniemi after Hawk training. He spent five years at the Air Command amassing 500 flight hours in the cockpit of the F/A-18 Hornet. At the moment, Lauri is serving as an air combat instructor at the 3rd Flight of Fighter Squadron 41. In addition to flight instruction, Lauri’s duties include developing the squadron’s activities, pilot qualifications monitoring and participation in various projects. Lauri has amassed slightly over 1000 flight hours on the Air Force’s aircraft.
Various types of sports are close to Lauri’s heart. Orienteering taken up as a young boy, and various endurance sports such as jogging, skiing and cycling fill a big part of Lauri’s free time. Lauri picked up aeronautical pentathlon when he was a cadet. Having pursued it for ten years, in addition to fantastic memories, he walked away with a few medals. Free riding is his most recent hobby; getting to the Norwegian mountains at least once a year is an absolute must.
Midnite 0 Supervisor Captain Oskari Tähtinen
The season 2023 supervisor is 36 year old Captain Oskari Tähtinen from Jyväskylä. Oskari graduated from the long-established Jyväskylä Lyceum High School in the spring of 2006. In the summer, Joonas reported for conscript service in the Air Force on Pilot Reserve Officer Course 81. As a natural continuation, Oskari took up studies at the National Defence University on Cadet Course 94, Air Force Pilot’s Programme. Oskari graduated as a Bachelor of Military Sciences in autumn 2010 and continued HW training in Kauhava until spring 2012.
In spring 2012, Oskari moved on to Lapland Air Command in Rovaniemi to take up F/A-18 training. All in all, he stayed six years in Rovaniemi, and in summer 2018, he returned to his home turf to take a flight instructor position at Fighter Squadron 41. On top of his flight instructor duties, Tähtinen is serving as the Deputy Commander of the 3rd Flight of Fighter Squadron 41.
Oskari has accumulated a total of some 1600 hours flying military aircraft, including 600 on the Hornet. In addition, Oskari has also strayed into aviation outside of work, so he currently has about 400 flight hours from the civilian side under his belt.
Besides flying, Oskari enjoys versatile ways of keeping fit. At the moment the activities closest to his heart are, in particular, cycling, free and scuba diving, travelling and photography. Oskari’s photos may pop up in various Air Force publications and for example on the Midnight Hawks’ Instagram.
Midnite 10 Senior Engineering Officer Sergeant Major Lasse Ahlgren
The team’s new senior engineering officer, in other words no. 10, is Sergeant Major Lasse Ahlgren from Pylkönmäki, Central Finland. After high school, Ahlgren left for Halli, Jämsä, to do his military service on the Aircraft Maintenance NCO Course, after which he served the rest of his service time in Tikkakoski at the Supporting Air Operations Squadron working with transport and liaison aircraft. After conscript service, he stayed on at the Supporting Air Operations Squadron for another year to continue the line of work he already knew. After this, he was recruited for a year by a civilian company which provides maintenance services for the Air Force’s aircraft.
After completing the Basic Military Personnel Course, he was employed by the Utti Jaeger Regiments’ Helicopter Battalion in 2004. He worked there for about five years working with helicopters.
Towards the end of 2008, he transferred to Tikkakoski to the Air Force Academy’s Supporting Air Operations Squadron and back to working with transport and liaison aircraft. In 2014, as the Supporting Air Operations Squadron was transferred to Pirkkala, Ahlgren moved to this new site to do his job. Since 2017, he has been serving at the Air Force Academy in Tikkakoski. At the moment, his duties include, besides working with the Hawks, also planning the technical aspects of Pilatus activities as well as flight safety mechanics’ duties. He has been serving as a member of the Midnight Hawks aerobatics team for three years. Ahlgren has served in military aviation for slightly less than 20 years, i.a. in Vinka, Redigo, MD500, Piper, Fokker, C295, Pilatus and Hawk maintenance duties.
He spends his free time snowmobile driving, motorcycling and doing various kinds of sports.