Paavo Lonkila never won a Finnish Championship, but won two silvers (1949, 1950) and two bronzes (1952, 1955) at the Finnish Championships, all in 18 km. Lonkila made his international début at the 1950 World Championships, where he was fifth at 18 km and won a silver as a member of the Finnish relay team. In 1951 Lonkila won the 18 km at Holmenkollen. At the 1952 Olympic Games Lonkila won a bronze, 11 seconds behind his teammate Tapio Mäkelä in the 18 km, and was a member of the gold medal winning Finnish relay team. After his competitive career ended Lonkila was a farmer.