One of the easiest options for spotting at Paris Orly airport – particularly if you don’t have a car – is the Panorama Terrace which is situated on top of Terminal Sud (the South Terminal).
On a recent trip to Paris I thought I’d check it out for the first time.
This particular terrace can be found on the fourth floor of the terminal. It is signposted, but not very easy to find. You need to head towards the eastern end of the building on the check-in level. Then find the stairs heading up into the food court and security screening. Keep going up the escalators until you see the doors out onto the terrace.
Stepping out on to the terrace brought back a lot of memories of days spent on Terminal 1 at Frankfurt, or even as a kid on the rooftop of my local airport (Durham Tees Valley). The smells of jet fuel and the sounds of engines whining as they power up for taxi. The panoramic view over all the stands and parked aircraft was also a happy memory. Why can’t more airports do this?
The area runs along most of the south terminal, with grass areas and plenty of seating. Remnants of a much bigger area can still be seen, with blocked-off staircases leaded to two upper levels. Never mind, the current space is big enough and has panoramic views over the longest side of the terminal, plus the remote stands opposite and parts of Terminal Ouest (West Terminal).
You also have good views of runways 02/20 and 08/26, which on my visit were being used all day as the other runway (06/24) is being resurfaced.
Unfortunately the panorama terrace is surrounded by glass, which is quite annoying for photographers as it can cause blurry pictures and reflections. The glass was also quite dirty in most places. However, as you can see from the pictures here, it is possible to take some acceptable shots of aircraft.
Another negative for the terrace is that it faces south, so photographers are facing into the sun most of the day.
Nevertheless, for relaxing in the sun and logging movements, this is a great location for spotting at Paris Orly. Other places may be better for photography, but need a car or some careful public transport planning.
From the Panoramic Terrace it is possible to see three classic airframes at Orly. To the east is Airbus A300 SU-DAS, and poking out among the buildings to the west is Caravelle F-BVPZ (you’ll need to look very carefully through binoculars for this one), both used by the airport fire service for training. Meanwhile, directly in front of you it’s hard to miss Concorde prototype F-WTSA at the Delta Museum (museum website) just to the south of the airport.
If you need food whilst at the terrace, there are some options two floors below near the security checkpoint. They have a similar view to the terrace, so you shouldn’t miss many movements while you eat!
During my visit there were lots of airport staff taking a break and enjoying food or a cigarette break. There were also regular patrols by security personnel. At one point a group of airport police stopped and asked me about what I was doing, whether I was flying from Orly, where I was from etc. They inspected my passport, and I handed my CDG/Le Bourget photography permit to try and explain what I was doing. They were more than happy with this and wished me a good day.