The sudden and ear-shattering appearance of an F-18 Hornet jet fighter in the skies immediately over Helsinki caused consternation and palpitations among city residents on Tuesday.
The fly-over was not part of the ongoing Ruska 2004 military exercise, but an Air Force salute to a veteran pilot, who was buried in the Hietaniemi Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon. Topi Wuorimaa was a World War II veteran, who served a long career both as a fighter pilot and a flying instructor.
The fly-over is an Air Force tribute equivalent to a graveside salute by a firing party. The plane flies in at low altitude, about 100 metres above the ground, and turns into a vertical climb right above the final resting-place of the departed.
The fly-over salute is rare, and is only accorded to Knights of the Mannerheim Cross, the highest Finnish award for gallantry, or to veteran pilots with an extensive career in the Air Force.
Usually out-of-the-ordinary flight activities such as this are reported to the general public in advance, but for some reason the Air Force failed to do so on this occasion.