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Finnair Flight 915 (wikipedia.org)
152 points by curtis 77 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

This is good story to recall whenever someone says that governments, organizations, and other big groups of people can't keep secrets. This was kept secret for 27 years (1987 to 2014)! I imagine that the pilots told their wives, friends, and other pilots all about it. Nobody was even asking them to keep it secret. Probably hundreds of people knew what happened, but the public and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency didn't find out for decades. Whenever I hear some incident that's made the news, I wonder about hundreds or thousands of worse incidents that same day that didn't make the news for whatever reason.

Very true. A similar incident, also from Finland, was the downing of the passenger plane Kaleva. It was shot down by Soviet warplanes during peacetime.

The vague publicly stated reason for the crash was that there was an explosion of foreign origin. The Finnish government knew that the plane was shot down by the Soviets, but chose to withhold this information for foreign policy reasons.

The airline's CEO confided the truth to the pilots' widows, who were sworn to secrecy. The true story was kept secret for almost 50 years until a Finnish aviation historian happened to find a copy of a Soviet air force officer's memoirs which describe the incident.


https://yle.fi/aihe/artikkeli/2018/04/24/matkustajakone-kale... (in Finnish)

So that begets the question, why do the Fins allow the Russian to use their planes as target practice by keeping silent?

Maybe there is some truth to the West German term 'Finlandisation'?


Finn here. Finlandization is absolutely a thing, it's even mentioned OP's Fine Article on Finnair Flight 915 ;)

National-level Finnish politicians still weigh their statements on matters such as the imperialist endeavors of our beloved eastern neighbor. Other institutions are gradually becoming less self-censored.

Someone better informed, or just older than my 30-or-so years can probably be more precise and offer more and better examples.

But I have the sense that internationally renowned journalist Jessikka Aro's reporting on Russian disinfo ops wouldn't have been encouraged, yet translated to English and Russian by Finnish state-owned broadcaster Yle before, say, 2005 https://kioski.yle.fi/omat/jessikka-aros-prize-winning-stori...

When you're a small country living next to a very powerful one, you learn to mind your manners.

Or join NATO, which the Baltic states did at the first opportunity. Finland has always refused, although apparently they did think about it in 2007. Ukraine also had the opportunity, didn’t take it, and it didn’t work out so well for them.

When in your opinion did Ukraine have the opportunity to join NATO? Can you reference a short passage somewhere that says as much?

The MAP in 2008? It’s pretty common knowledge.


It is common knowledge that Ukraine applied to join NATO. I'm interested in your implication that they were ever offered membership. I doubt they ever were because I think the United States (and probably other members) considered an offer too likely to risk a war with Russia.

Right, Ukraine applied and NATO responded with a Membership Action Plan, it clearly would not have done that if it didn’t want Ukraine as a member.

Really Ukraine should have made NATO membership a condition of giving up its nukes when the USSR collapsed.

Nato writes on their web site that "Participation in the MAP does not prejudge any decision by the Alliance on future membership"


--in other words their being invited into a MAP does not mean they would have been invited to become a member.

When the USSR collapsed, George Bush the elder was President, and he was one of the US's best Presidents on foreign policy, and no way he would've gone along with offering NATO membership to Ukraine. If the Obama adminstration was willing to do it, I find that depressing because NATO does not have the conventional military strength to defend Ukraine from a Russian invasion, and of course would be unwilling to launch a nuclear attack on Russia over the fate of Ukraine. It would be a mistake for NATO to make any public commitment it is not willing and able to keep. Credibility is essential for avoiding war.

Ukraine should have kept its nuclear weapons. The USSR collapsed in 89/90, and Ukraine gave up its nukes in 1994. NATO didn't have the capability of defending Ukraine (had it joined) until 2004 when Poland and Slovakia joined. Without a border adjacent to a NATO member, it's hard to defend.

Are you Finnish? I'm not convinced many Fins would love that characterisation.

Probably not, but that doesn’t make it wrong. There’s even a special term for it: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finlandization

I’m sure most Finns would agree with that characterization.

It’s certainly not a nation of very thin-skinned people.

Not Finnish. But Finland has fought two wars with the Russians in the last century, and without a protective alliance, really is at Russia's mercy. Look at what happened to Georgia.

I'm a realpolitik guy, so I don't often mince my words.

I'm Canadian and agree that having a Great Power for a neighbor has a profound impact on federal policy, both foreign and domestic.

Meh... Canadians love to define themselves as "not Americans".

That's a distinct but related social artifact of living next to a cultural hegemon. What I'm talking about is domestic and foreign government policy.

is that supposed to refute in any way that the parent said ? I'm canadian and he's right... we are not sovereign at all.

Do you actually believe that the Soviets used Finnish airplanes as target practice?

Yes and no. Your explanation looks like an excuse for conspiracy theorists.

It was kept secret because it looks like nothing much happened, nobody nor the plane was harmed. I've seen weird things I can't explain, and I "kept them secret" because most probably, nothing very interesting (like E.T. landing) or serious (like people getting killed) happened.

Regarding the news, as complete information is impossible, the system is some sort of Chinese whispers game with multiple levels of filtering through multiple conflicting choices providing only a very remote glimpse of the real thing. There's nothing much we can do about it (except getting to the source and being very thorough on matters that you really care about, and live with the fact that you mostly know nothing).

Consider climate change: Comes a new IPCC report. It's a digest of millions of papers from various sources and sciences (no one is really called a "climatologist": climate science is made by oceanologists, glaciologists, wheather specialists, etc). IPCC writes a 4000 pages report (100x or 1000x reduction from the source material). From this report, a 40 pages digest is made. Newspapers write (and people read) half-page articles about the new IPCC report, by reading this 40 pages digest and little else. As almost nobody reads more than partial reports of this 40-pages digest, unsurprisingly misunderstanding and ignorance prevail.

On a similar note, Soviet government denied the existence of Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact until 1989: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molotov%E2%80%93Ribbentrop_Pac...

Another interesting fact - while on the German side, Ribbentrop was executed in 1946, Molotov enjoyed a happy life, although, similarly to Ribbentrop, he was also involved in massacres and crimes against humanity.

If the copilot had gone directly to the media this would have been all over the news. At least, I hope it would given the recent spate of outrage driven pieces I've seen about women wearing risque clothing (before anyone objects, they are completely within their rights to do so) being asked to cover up or being removed from a flight.

It's worth noting that Finnair hasn't lost an aircraft since 1963, and are by some measures thus the safest airline out there.

They're no minnow either: while not huge in the US, they've made a killing by exploiting their geographical location as the fastest transfer hub between northern Asia and Europe.


Surely Ryanair takes that crown, an airline which has never had a fatal accident, and which is an order of magnitude larger than Finnair (~130,000,000 passengers annually vs ~13,000,000).


Although Qantas has not had a fatal accident for ~70 years, it has a much smaller fleet and has had far more non-fatal incidents and accidents than Ryanair.

The real contender is Hawaiian Airlines, a ~90-year-old airline with no fatal accidents. Still, it's an order of magnitude smaller than Ryanair (~12,000,000 annual passengers).

I love how "rakastevagen" => "rakaste vägen" is Swedish for "the shortest path", but also sounds a bit Finnish to me, a non-Finnish speaker. Reminiscent of "rakastan", which a Swede would know from "minä rakastan sinua", or "I love you".

Because it's slightly surprising... Despite being neighbors, Swedish and Finnish are only distantly related. Finnish is closer to Hungarian, and Swedish is similar to the other Scandinavian languages and Germanic languages.

Rakaste vägen is the aggregation of the Finnish word Rakaste and the Swedish word vägen. There are quite a few words in Finnish that are borrowed from Swedish.

“Rakaste" is the superlative of the Swedish rak, meaning straight. It is not a Finnish word.

"location as the fastest transfer hub"

Not sure what this means. How is Helsinki better suited for this than Moscow to serve Asia<>Europe? Aeroflot is one of the most underrated airlines.

made a killing colloquial but also.. apposite given what nearly happened (happy Finnair customer btw)

there's a good soviet russia joke here.

Well they would surely loose this one if the missile didn't blow up before impact...

Reminds me of the brutal sinking of the swedish passenger ship Hansa by soviet, 84 people died with only 2 surviving.


Hansa was sunk during WW2, I would not compare this to anything happening 1987.

The North remembers.


The ship was built in the 19th century. It was sunk in WW2 when Sweden was a de-facto ally of the Nazis who, also, used citizens as target practice.

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