Northern lights flight is the most exciting aurora tour in Rovaniemi. It will take you above the clouds to see the northern lights in cloudy weather.
Some time ago I was invited by a local tour operator, Wild Nordic, to test their amazing new service – the northern lights flight. I have hunted aurora for many years, but never on a plane! Of course, I was intrigued!
The idea about the northern lights flight is simple: often, there is a good aurora activity, but the sky is cloudy in Rovaniemi. What to do in this case? Sometimes, when we go on aurora tours, we can find for clear skies elsewhere. However, at times there are huge snowstorms that cover all of Lapland, and you cannot see northern lights from the ground. This is often the case in November and beginning of December, when the weather is extremely cloudy, but it can happen during other months as well.
This is when the northern lights flight comes handy! The flight takes you above the clouds to enoy the view of the clear skies. The height of the flight is about 3,000 metres. If the cloud cover is higher, the flight does not depart.
The time is around 8PM. After a short wait in the hotel in Rovaniemi centre, the mini-bus comes to pick us up. We collect more people on our way, but the transportation to Rovaniemi airport is fast. Each flight only takes a handful of people, seven to be exact. The mini-bus takes us a private hangar near Rovaniemi airport. There, the Piper PA 31 airplane is waiting for us. What a beautiful bird!
Unlike the usual and dreadful experience of check-in and security control, there is none of this nonsence here. You can come as you are, in your regular clothes. No passport is required either. You can take a camera with you, but, as I’ve experienced, taking pictures on the northern lights flight is extremely challenging. The captaing of the ship welcomes us and gives us a briefing. We are going to depart in 10 minutes, and head north to the region of Kittilä. We will circle the sky around 40 minutes before heading back. The flight normally departs around 20.30, and later, if there are multiple flights.
The plane is towed outside and we hop in. I cannot believe how easy it is! The cabin is quite small, but that’s the idea of a small private flight. The passengers get to wear headphones to hear the instructions of the captain during the flight. The engines do make quite a noise too!
This how the cockpit looks like. I wish I knew how to operate this plane!
Video from the Northern Lights Flight
I’ve attended northern lights flight in October 2017. The sky was cloudy, but we got higher that the clouds and seen beautiful northern lights. During the flight one couple proposed, and we all cheered! I still get goose bumps remembering this moment!
The pilots do their pre-flight check. The flight control grants us permission, and we take off. No wait at all! It’s an amazing feeling to see how the airport and the city lights become smaller and disappear in the distance. The clouds are pretty thick and for 5 minutes, we do not see anything from our windows. Finally we rise above the clouds and see the amazing starry skies. Wow! What a view! This is already an experience on its own. Soon, my trained eye sees it. Small aurora is starting!
I alert the attention of the others, and soon everyone is glued to the windows! From the picture above, you can also see how thick the clouds were on the ground. The aurora got stronger and stronger with every minute.
All of the sudden, one of the passengers on the flights pulls out a ring and proposes to his girlfriend. We are all stunned. These guys are coming from Hong-Kong, and seeing northern lights was the main point of their trip.
The girlfriend says “yes,” and we all start cheering and clapping. Wow! What a moment. I still get goose bumps thinking about it. I also manage to record the proposal on video, which I later sent to the couple. I’ve kept this video private, but you can see a short video of the whole experience on the youtube clip above.
Speaking about taking aurora photos, it is quite challening to take them on the flight. Ideally, you need a tripod to make good pictures of northern lights, because it requires long exposure. So, if you are an amateur, I would not really recomend for you to bother with photos. Just enjoy the ride! If you are professional, you might be able to squeeze in on the flight some small portable tripod, and give it ago. As the plane shakes during the flight, even with a tripod your images can come out blurry. If you own a good professional camera, like Sony A7S, it will be much easier. Above is the best shot I’ve made from the trip.
It’s time to go back. With all this excitement, the time flies fast. The pilots start to descend and soon we touch the runway at Rovaniemi airport. Getting on the ground is easy, as there is no security control once again. Just like taking a Sky-Uber! 🙂
All-in-all, I can warmly recommend going on the northern lights flight, especially if the weather is bad, and there is little chance to see the northern lights from the ground.
Priced at 439€ per person, it is not a cheap tour, but sometimes it’s the only thing that can work. Seeing northern lights on the flight is not guaranteed, but the flight is an experience non-the-less. You can enquire about the tour here:
The flights are operated from December 1st until March 31st.
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About the Author
Alex is a passionate aurora hunter and photographer based in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland. He spends dozens of nights every season hunting and waiting for northern lights. He is driven by the desire to capture aurora borealis in its full glory, as well as to capture the ultimate aurora photo that no one has ever seen before. Alex is also editor-in-chief of All About Lapland magazine, hiker and explorer.