BF-Lento Oy is a Finnish flight school. The family-owned company has been in business for 50 years already, providing flight training in a school format up to the level of airline pilots.

BF-Lento Oy was established in 1969 by a young man called Mark Baker, who decided then to set up a flight training organization at Helsinki-Malmi Airport. The school began by training private pilots and then expanded the training scope to commercial pilots, and now BF-Lento Oy is training airline pilots.

Mark Baker’s name stems from his Canadian family roots, but actually he was born and bred in Helsinki, Finland, and still lives there with his family. From the outset, the company name has been BF-Lento, in which the letters “BF” were derived from the words Baker Flying.

The no. 8/2016 issue of the Finnish aviation magazine “Ilmailu” featured a front cover story of BF-Lento entitled “Malmin mies” (“the Malmi man”). The article name was most fitting – there could hardly be another person to whom it would apply more appropriately.

The spring of 2019 marked Baker’s 50th anniversary as a business owner operating at Malmi. He is the longest-running private operator there. The company has held the same office for 50 years. Perched up on the 3rd floor of the round building, the premises offer good views to both runways. Malmi Airport is to be closed down some time in the future, apparently with permanent effect, and one can only guess how the business owner feels about this. But the company will continue pursuing its mission – provision of flight training – at another airport.

Mark Baker decided what career he would have already as a 9-year-old, while at a summer cottage in Lammi. “A Vihuri advanced training aircraft of the Finnish Air Force almost blew my hat off when flying rather close by”, he reminisces. “That basically settled the matter for me.”

Baker successfully completed a private pilot license(colloquially known at the time as “the A2”) at the age of 17 in 1964. Over the following four years, this was ensued at a rapid pace by a commercial pilot license, multi-engine rating, instrument rating and partnership in the business airline Sir-Air. During this period, he became acquainted with many different types of aircraft, such as the Cessna 195 Businessliner.

Mark Baker qualified as a flight instructor in 1969 and forthwith set up his own flight school under the business name BF-Lento. The business idea was to train new pilots and rent out aircraft to the flight school’s graduates. Baker had to borrow money to buy a Cessna 150 aircraft, registration OH-CCO. This fabled individual, dubbed “Charlie-Ossi”, served BF-Lento for 40 years, racking up more than 13,000 operating hours.

The early 1970s was a golden age for general aviation in Finland. The fuel was cheap, and an average citizen could easily afford the price of a pilot’s license. Malmi was the busiest Finnish airport by a wide margin. Then the oil crisis of 1973 derailed the global economy, and its effects were seen at Malmi, too. Some flight schools were forced to shut their doors, but BF-Lento survived and kept going. The flight school business had to wait ten long years for the next upward trend to emerge.

In the 1990s, BF-Lento carried out a lot of air taxi flights with its twin-engine fleet. Additionally, the company was engaged in aerial photography, wildlife counting and mail carrier flights. These operations were then rendered impossible through the interpretation of the relevant rules by EASA, the EU’s new aviation authority. BF-Lento returned to its roots in pilot training. At the same time, the company also trained many new flight instructors.

The 2010s saw a massive resurgence of aviation as a result of deregulation in the field and the consequent cheap airline boom. Real prices of air travel decreased considerably, and passenger numbers increased. All this culminated in a global shortage of pilots. Current estimates have it that 30,000 new pilots will be needed in a couple of years’ time.

BF-Lento is playing its part to tackle the challenge, although the threat of closure of Finland’s oldest land air station does undermine the effort. The training will continue elsewhere. BF-Lento’s business idea is to offer affordable and cost-effective flight training on a flexible timetable.

Grab your own share of the burgeoning trend in air traffic by training to become a pilot. It has been a long while since the employment prospects of airline pilots have been as favorable as they are now!


Pekka Suuronen