Le Bourget (Paris Air Show)
|Type:||Commercial trade event and airshow|
|Schedule:||Bi-yearly (odd years), in June|
|Location:||Aéroport de Paris - Le Bourget|
|Editions attended:||2005 2007|
Paris Air Show is one of the oldest commercial aviation events in the world. It's not an "airshow" in a classical sense - as its main purpose is definitely to be a marketplace for the industry. But still, it provides some limited photo opportunities.
Well, this could be generalized as simply: "getting to Paris" But let me try to be a bit more specific.
RER B is your friend. It's a quick metropolitan train, connecting the Charles de Gaulle airport with the city center (Gare du Nord). You need to get out at Le Bourget station, which is, surprisingly, quite far from the airport.
During the show days, there are bus shuttles from the station directly to the show entrance. However, they tend to be extremely packed with people - and relatively slow (see below notes about traffic). If you don't have lots of stuff to carry, you might as well have a walk - it takes about 1.5km up to the gates:
- First, take Avenue Francis de Pressensé
- Then, follow Avenue Division Leclerc
- And, either follow the crowd that will be turning left around the two roundabouts here
- ... or carry on until you see the three Fougas of Patrouille de France, where you will find an entry to the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace.
The show organizers provide also shuttle bus service from few other places (metro stations and CDG), but I tend to avoid them - simply too slow and affected by traffic jams.
If you are coming for few days and sleeping a bit further (thus: will need to use the public transport a lot), consider getting yourself some version of the Paris Visite Card. For more information about public transport in Paris (timetables, lines etc), check ratp.fr.
In short: don't. Paris as such is not a nice place to drive, but during the exhibition, area surrounding Le Bourget turns into a true nightmare. It's not an uncommon sight to see the people having a walk from the RER station moving faster than the traffic on the main street.
However, if you insist... the best is to somehow arrive via the A2 highway - even if this means that you have to go around. Take the exit #5 and follow the signs. Note: the highway is likely to be crowded and jammed as well, but at least the traffic is consistent.
General note: as usual for such big events, it's important to book early. Otherwise, only either the most obscure, or most expensive places will be still available.
Provided quite good public transport, you can easily stay away from the Bourget area. If you don't need to park your car, it's probably best to find yourself a cheap hotel in the city centre. There are literally thousands of them, on each small street you will find some small, often family-owned, establishments. Rates go as low as 40-60€ per double room. The comfort is usually rather averagee (they are mostly located in the old buildings), but acceptable for 1-2 nights.
Easiest way to find such hotels is to launch Map24.com and look around the desired area. For example, check the eastern surroundings of Gare de Lyon. Another useful resource are sites like TripAdvisor or VirtualTourist - hotels in Paris usually are very well reviewed there.
If you have your own car (and don't want to spend hundreds on a five-star resort), then you probably want to stay a bit away from the centre. In this case, check out the large hotel networks, like Accor or Premiere Classe - they both have some hotels in the surroundings and usually a closed parking place is available.
Paris Air Show happens during a whole week, starting on Monday. The first four days are for trade visitors - there is a bit less happening in the air, less crowd etc. The tickets can be booked via the website - normally, you can get one even if you are not in aviation industry, your application just needs to look reasonably serious. According to the organizers:
"On entering the Show visitors will be asked to present a business card to demonstrate their trade status; this does not have to be within the aeronautics field."
In practice, they don't even do that it would take way too long... they tend to have quite a disorder there. Once in 2007 I managed to get into the showground, directed by the guards without passing any checkpoints and actually had to come back through it, as I wanted to pick up my accreditation One note though: children under 16 years are not allowed during the trade visitor days.
Then, starting on Friday, there come three public days. The display programme is marginally better, but usually, there are enormous crowds over the weekend. Expect long queues etc.
Photo opportunities (public)
Here comes the bad part. Within the public area, there are very few photo opportunities for anything but the static display. Main problem is the two rows of business chalets, which are attached directly to the taxiway area and coupled tightly, without any space in between
It's just slightly better during the public days - as then, an additional part of grass strip is open to the public. Then, additional possibilities are:
- Paying for a grandstand seat. But the grandstand is located on the back of the area, so you are far from the action. More, you might have the disabled enclosure right in front of you But at least, you are above the crowd...
- Alternatively, you might try to push yourself right in front. But... the public is then separated from the taxiway by a 2m high solid fence. (remember what I told you? it's not an air show ). And, of course, the crowd is the most extreme there.
- Probably the wisest choice is to take a spot somewhere in the middle - where there are slightly less people - and focus on the shots in the air. If you are after the dynamic takeoff/landing shots... perhaps just go somewhere else
Again: all the above is possible only during the public days. At the trade visitors ones, you can just watch the big aircrafts taxiing to/from their places for the dynamic displays. And possibly, get a glimpse of the demos, over the roofs of the chalets
Even if you have a press accreditation, the only thing you get is a place in the south-eastern corner, with view partially obscured by dynamic parking and some of the tarmac installations.
If all this was not enough - main runway configuration at Le Bourget is 03/18. This means that starting in the early afternoon, the sun is on the wrong side.
Photo opportunities (other)
Fortunately, there is a solution to all the above problems Just outside of the southern part of the showground, slightly left from axis of the runway, attached to the perimeter fence, you will find the most well known Le Bourget spot. It's not of much use in the early morning, but already around noon you get some nice angles. And the later the better.
Still, it's not a classical centerpoint, facing the runway kind of spot. You will not make any panned side-shots of landing planes there as they pass relatively high, almost over your head. However, you can get:
- En-face shots of the smaller planes, getting out of the dynamic parking and aligning for the takeoff. As a bonus, you'll get Ariane rocket in the background
- Slightly rear-right shots of the landings - in particular, the touch & go of the F/A-18F Super Hornet looks really impressive from here.
- Any kind of low-pass will be happening directly over you. And, for the French Rafale solo display, it is a really smashing experience.
The perimeter is not too high - but still, you will need a small stepladder. Or, you can count on various installations that are left in this area - large trashcans, some heavy machinery etc.
Note: please don't confuse the above spot with the parkings in the runway axis. While the above place seems to be used without problems by tens (hundreds) of people every two years, these parkins are treated in somehow special way - and, unless you have your car there, there will be regular security patrols who will kick you out.
- Hill in the runway axis - relatively far (few hundred meters from the runway threshold), but provides unobscured view for the starting and landing aircrafts.
- Parc de Dugny-Courneuve - some hills in the public park offer mostly unobstructed view to the runway. The angles are similar to the above "classic" spot, but you are further away.
- Eastern side of the runway - while there is no direct spot with clear view to the runway (lots of obstacles there), visibility is quite good for the dynamic displays.
Business event, business people - and first-class facilities as well Not much to complain here - tens of food stands with large choice of meals, enough of the toilets etc.
What could be done better is to perhaps distribute the stands a bit more - currently they are all packed in the southern area, between the Halls 1-6. But otherwise (and disregarding the prices) - a solid "4".
Entrance for the public days is not particularly expensive. However, the commercial ones cost significantly more.
Entry tickets (general public)
The tickets can be bought in advance, but there is no discount - prices are the same as during the show, which is:
|Single day ticket:||12€|
|Reservation of a grandstand seat:||10€|
|Children under 7:||free|
Entry tickets (trade visitors)
|1-day pass, purchased in advance:||32€|
|1-day pass, purchased on-site:||42€|
|Permanent pass, valid for whole week:||110€|
Prices on the showground
The food on-site is relatively expensive - I recall that for 10€ you'll rather get something small to keep you going, not a real full-featured meal.
Last updated: 31-12-2010, 21:51