Off the breezy shores of Lake Saimma lies Sulkava, a cozy town in south-eastern Finland. And within this small town is a family farm where a young boy who dreamed of becoming a pilot grew up. Many years later, his dreams would be achieved, and he would also go on to have the ultimate flying Finnair family.

This is the story of the Kaipainens, where flying and working with flag carrier Finnair is a genuine family affair. Beginning with a young aviator's dream, having his daughter follow in his footsteps, and finally, meeting the love of his life while at work.

Allowing dreams to take flight

While residing at the family farm in Sulkava, young Markku Kaipainen and his brother would always hear an aircraft flying overhead, prompting the duo to stop whatever they were doing and run outside to figure out where it might be headed. And perhaps it was because of this constant familiar sight that Markku dreamt of being in the cockpit when he grew up, as he said,

"I'm not even sure why, but from the time I was a very young boy, I always dreamed of becoming a pilot."

Markku worked hard at school and, in 1989, began his flying career with a Saab 340 propeller for Finnaviation, a smaller airline that would later become part of Finnair. Fast forward to today, and Markku pilots much bigger aircraft, like Finnair's Airbus A330s and A350s, to destinations like Singapore, New York, Doha, and everywhere else.

A Finnair Airbus A330 parked at an airport.
Photo: Finnair

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Following her father's footsteps

Like his early childhood ambitions, his daughter Maiju Kaipainen also knew in elementary school what she wished to be when she grew up. While one might have anticipated Maiju would go down the flying path like her father, given his many flying stories and having been on flights with him, she chose to be a gate agent, as she highlighted,

"My best friend and I used to play ‘airport’ at the local stables. Her mother was a gate agent at the Savonlinna Airport, and she taught us how to check the kids’ tickets, board them and make the gate announcements."

Maiju thought about becoming a flight attendant but admitted to being too young and short back then. She also expressed a more profound interest in working in the background, keeping her feet on the ground for work, and flying primarily for fun - compared to her father flying for work. And if anything, Maiju prefers to try her hand at planning routes and studying the weather forecasts, so perhaps a career switch might be in order.

Encountering fate at work

While Markku and Maiju occasionally run into each other at Helsinki Airport, the duo often bumps into another member of the Kaipainen family, wife and stepmother Maria Kaipainen. Rounding up the 'family business,' Maria works as a people experience manager at Finnair's Inflight Experience Unit. But before this position, she began with Finnair as a flight attendant.

Compared to the father-daughter duo, Maria's touch with aviation was not a childhood calling. She describes it as more of a sign or a signal of fate, as she recalls,

"Someone suggested I would make a great flight attendant and the next time I opened the newspaper there was an ad saying that Finnair was looking for cabin crew."

After her necessary training and a few years working in ticketing sales, Maria took to the skies as a flight attendant. During her bout in the skies, she would often run into the same pilot, Markku, and it wasn't long before the pair fell in love and got married, all while still working for Finnair.

A Finnair Airbus A350-941 flying in the sky.
Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

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A possible new generation

Nearly two decades and two kids later, the flying Kaipainens might have a new Finnair flying generation on the horizon, as the couple's teenage son and daughter, Markus and Kiira, have already shown significant interest in aviation. While Markus looks to follow Markku, Kirra spends her time on the iPad studying flight paths and weather forecasts, a similar flying interest to her stepsister, Maiju.

  • Finnair Airbus A350-941
    Reducing costs will play a key role in helping Finnair return to profitability. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
    IATA/ICAO Code:
    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier
    Helsinki Airport
    Year Founded:
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