For the first 15 years, Finnair flew to New York via Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Finnair's first long-haul aircraft was the DC-8, which represented the height of aviation technology at the time. The media renamed the aircraft as "the Million Mark Brain", since its inertia navigation system was the same as on the space shuttle that took Neil Armstrong among the first astronauts to the Moon. Non-stop flights to New York began in 1984, when Finnair acquired its first wide-bodied DC-10.

Finnair's first four-motor DC-8 jet aircraft arrived in Finland on February 82, 1969. The plane was named Paavo Nurmi after the famous Finnish runner and it made its inaugural flight to New York. The second of these new jet giants arrived on March 23 and was named Jean Sibelius in honour of Finland's finest composer. Before its first flight across the Atlantic, a test flight was carried out in the Mediterranean area. The new aircraft type could hold five times as much fuel as the older Caravelle planes.

The new DC-8s were configured to carry 124 passengers in economy and another 16 in first class.

Top Finnish designers were consulted in planning the aircraft's interior décor. Textile artist Marjatta Metsovaara designed the cabin, and the crockery set used in first class was by Tapio Wirkkala. Customer service was taken care of by Finn Hostesses, who were specifically trained for flights to North America, and looked quite distinctive in their designer uniforms.

At the same time as Finnair was preparing for the opening of the New York route, Helsinki-Vantaa airport experienced fundamental changes: the old barrack-style buildings were exchanged for a new terminal - with the first passengers setting off on the inaugural flight to New York on May 15, 1969.

Every passenger on the inaugural flight was presented with a celebratory rose. On that first flight to New York half of the passengers were Finnish and included Finnair's director Gunnar Korhonen and minister Väinö Leskinen.

First Finnair DC-8 aircraft named after legendary Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi, also known as the Flying Finn. Picture: Finnair Archives.