Home Airport Spotting Guide The Best of Plane Spotting in the Paris Area

The Best of Plane Spotting in the Paris Area

by Matt Falcus

Paris, the capital city of France, is a hub for aviation activity thanks to the large local population and being a centre of tourism, government and business.

For aviation enthusiasts it can be both a rewarding and frustrating area to visit, with plenty of interesting aircraft to see, but laws around photographing aircraft at certain airports that must be adhered to.

Here’s a guide to plane spotting in the Paris area:


Large Airports

Paris is served by two large airports, Charles de Gaulle to the north, and Orly to the south.


Paris Charles de Gaulle

Concorde Paris CDG

Concorde preserved near the taxiway at Paris CDG.

Charles de Gaulle, also known as Roissy, is the busiest airport in France and one of the busiest in Europe in terms of passenger numbers and cargo handled. It is the main operating base for Air France and its partners.

The airport has three terminals – Terminal 1 to the west, the sprawling Terminal 2 to the east, and the smaller low-cost and charter Terminal 3.

There are also large cargo terminals to the west, with FedEx a major player.

There’s a motorway bridge near Terminal 1. From here aircraft can be seen taxiing. It is fine for photography, but there are no views of Terminal 2.

Also, road run along the northern and southern perimeters of the airport which are good for viewing movements on the corresponding runways.


Paris Orly

spotting at paris orly

Paris Orly viewing terrace

Orly is the second busiest airport in both Paris and France and very much worth a visit, however in recent years the number of domestic flights operating from here has reduced thanks to new environmental legislation.

Air France is also set to all but vacate Orly in the near future.

It is, however, busy with airlines like Air Caraibes, Corsair and French Bee, as well as carriers visiting from North African countries like Algeria and Morocco.

The airport is easily linked to Paris and Charles de Gaulle by the road, bus and RER train network.

Photography is permitted here, but if you have a pass from Charles de Gaulle, it’s useful to have it handy.

The South Terminal has an outdoor observation area which can be reached from within the terminal. This is a good location for logging most of the airport’s movements, and photography is possible (although south-facing and through glass). The deck is free to enter, opening from 6am in summer and 10am in winter, and often open as a smoking area through the night. If you find it closed, windows inside offer a reduced view.

Spotting at Paris Orly – The Panorama Terrace


Secondary Airports

Paris Le Bourget


Only a ten-minute drive, or 30 minute bus journey (line 350 or 351) from Charles de Gaulle, Le Bourget is an excellent diversion when in Paris. It handles many of the city’s executive jet traffic, and is also famous for the bi-annual Paris Air Salon.

Also here is the excellent Musée de l’air et de l’espace (see below).

To log the many bizjets and props, walk or drive along the main road (Avenue de l’Europe) running from the terminal/museum between the long row of hangars, taking time to stop in between each one to log what is parked in front. This is best done on a weekday, and sometimes you will be moved on. At the end, past the main ramp and terminal area, is the Dassault maintenance area which usually has some interesting visitors parked outside.


Paris Beauvais Tille

HA-LTA | Wizz Air | Airbus A321-231(WL) | CN 8216 | Built 2018 | BVA/LFOB 18/05/2022

An airport with a focus on low cost operators situated around 50 miles north of Paris. It has two runways. Movements are dominated by Ryanair and Wizz Air.

Not really worth a trip in its own right, if you are flying from the airport you can get views from the road leading to the terminal over the end of runway 12. Alternatively, there are a few spots along the footpath running alongside the perimeter fence down the length of the runway.


Toussus-Le-Noble Airport

Photo (c) Alan Wilson

This is one of the oldest airports in France, opened in 1907, and today is the main general aviation airport in Paris.

There are no airline links, but does handle some executive aircraft movements.

Located near Versailles, the airport is set to be renamed aérodrome de Paris – Saclay – Versailles.

You can spot from around the main buildings. However, sometimes if you ask you will be permitted to log airside. Hangar operators are also known to permit spotters inside if you ask.


Paris Vatry

Armée de l'Air / Boeing E3F

Despite being some distance to the east of the city, Vatry airport still maintains Paris in its name.

The airport is popular with biz jets and executive aircraft, as well as general aviation. It also handles Ryanair passenger services, some cargo flights and airliner training.

The terminal and main parking apron are along the northern side of the runway.

Spotting is possible from the car parks around the terminal.


Melun Villaroche

Another general aviation field, located some 34km south east of central Paris.

The airport has two runways, and lots of based light aircraft. No airline flights operate here, however you may be lucky to see one of the many based vintage military and warbird aircraft operating on your visit.

Sadly it’s difficult to gain access to the airport without reason, so wandering the hangars and operational area is not really possible.

Roads do circuit the airfield, however, so you may be able to see runway operations.


Pontiose Cormeilles Aerodrome

Eric Salard, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Another smaller Paris airport, located to the north east.

Pontiose Cormeilles has been served by airline flights in recent history, but has none today.

Instead, most movements are general aviation and executive aircraft, with a number of flying clubs present.

You can see most aircraft on the ground from around the hangar area, and also the flying club area which has a café to use and views of the training fleets.


Paris Aviation Museums

There are two aviation museums in the Paris area that you may want to visit.

Musée de l’air et de l’espace (Air and Space Musuem)

93352 Le Bourget | +33 1 49 92 70 00 | www.museeairespace.frLe Bourget Museum

One of the best aviation museums in Europe, located at Paris Le Bourget airport. It includes many prototype aircraft from Dassault, Sud Aviacion, Airbus etc. Highlights include a Junkers F13, two Concordes, Dassault Mercure, Airbus A380, Douglas DC-8, Boeing 747-100 and Douglas DC-3. Open daily except Monday 10am-6pm (5pm in winter). The museum is free, but tickets must be bought to enter certain aircraft.

The aircraft not currently on display are kept in a compound on the western perimeter of Le Bourget airport and not really visible from the museum.

Paris Le Bourget Air and Space Museum


Musée Delta

1 Avenue Bernard LATHIERE, 91200 Athis Mons | https://museedelta.wixsite.com/musee-delta

Concorde Paris Orly

F-WTSA at the Musee Delta next to Paris Orly Airport.

This small aviation museum located just outside the southern boundary of Paris Orly airport packs a punch in being one of the world’s only museums to preserve a Concorde aircraft. It is F-WTSA, one of the French pre-production aircraft.

Other aircraft on display include a Sud Aviation Caravelle and Dassault Mirage III.

The museum is open every wednesday and saturday from 2pm to 6pm


Aviation Photography Permits for Paris

Aviation photography is not permitted at Paris Charles de Gaulle or Le Bourget airports, and it’s wise to have one for Orly and other Paris area airports too.

To apply for a permit for photography at Paris, e-mail spotters@interieur.gouv.fr with a letter (ideally in French – use Google Translate) stating you wish to take photographs at Charles de Gaulle and Le Bourget airports.


Airport Spotting Guides Europe

To find out more about the best plane spotting locations in Europe, get your copy of our guide Airport Spotting Guides Europe today.

Packed with maps, directions and details of what you’ll see at over 400 airports across Europe, it is an indispensable guide for plane spotters.

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