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Finnish RF-61F Reporter - Erkki Itavuori

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Over Exposed! - Part 4: Russian Treaties and Polish Vodka

The RF-61F successfully completed its trials in early 1949, the Ilmavoimat ordered the aircraft repainted in a more standard scheme of green and black over light blue. After the Finno-Soviet YYA Treaty was signed in 1948, Finland was forbidden from operating bombers with enclosed bomb bays. This forced the Finnish Air Force to either scrap their fleet of Blenheims, Do 17Zs, and Ju 88As or place them in storage. This also freed up a large number of experienced pilots and ground crew when the squadrons were stood down. One such bomber squadron was Pommituslentolaivue (PLeLv) 46, a former Do 17Z squadron that also performed mapping missions. It was redesignated Tiedustelulentolaivue (TLeLv) 46 to reflect its new dedicated reconnaissance mission, as the RF-61F carried no armament.

Aside from its new camouflage, the RF-61F also wore the Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka-inspired "roaring bull" emblem of PLeLv 46 and a cartoon of a RF-61F holding a camera, much like the "flying pencil" mapping emblem worn by the Do 17Zs. Finally, the aircraft was assigned the serial RP-999. The logic behind the '999' number is unclear, but it's possible that it was reference to the aircraft's USAF serial painted on the aircraft when discovered.

The primary pilot of the Reporter during this period was Major Erkki Itävuori, a former test pilot with many combat flight hours in the Junkers Ju 88, the closest analog to the RF-61F Reporter in the Finnish Air Force. While the RF-61F was designed for two pilots, the shorter duration missions flown by the Ilmavoimat saw them carrying a navigator/observer instead of a co-pilot in most cases. During this period, TLeLv 46 continued to operate the RF-61F from Tampere since the extensive facilities there allowed them to better maintain the big, complex, one-of-a-kind airplane.
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