If you travel to Paris by private plane, inevitably you will end up at Le Bourget, the business airport just to the north and west of the city. Closer in than Charles de Gaulle it is just a twenty-five minute ride to the Arc d’Triomphe, sans traffic, and a world away from the hassle of commercial airline travel.
Recently I found myself reconnecting with this, my favorite international airport. Le Bourget is steeped in history and resplendent with images from an earlier time in aviation. Hangars that remind one of a romantic era in flying share space with glass and chrome structures that salute the advancement of design and efficiency. As one drives into the airport from the A1 you are greeted by the L’Air and Espace Museum with its decommissioned Arianne rocket and B747 in Air France livery on the ramp. Home to the crown jewel of airshows the Salon des Avions, or Paris Air Show, is held every other year at Le Bourget. For me the deep breath moment always comes as I turn the corner past the offices of the Aeroport des Paris and look up the long “street” to the imposing structure of the maintenance hangars for Dassault Falcon Service. Here so much of my history has been made.
Le Bourget boasts a lengthy runway built to accommodate the largest of jets and plenty of parking spaces making this a very user friendly airport. With a variety of fixed base operators from which to choose your experience on the ground is sure to always be first class. If there is anything that one can be disappointed by, it may be because your time spent at the airport will be so short. Should your Citation or Falcon need work while in town, count on the factory approved Cessna Service Center or Dassault Falcon Service to fix you right up. Michel Timbert, Cessna’s local GM and Eloi Dufour, DFS’ will personally see to your jet’s expert care. This folks is as close as it gets to an American experience on foreign soil as these two are completely accessible and understand “can-do”. While departure and arrival slots are a requisite for air travel in Europe, Le Bourget always seems to handle them with such ease and precision. Kudos to the airport management and ATC!
I was duly impressed at the heightened appreciation and seriousness with which security is approached at Le Bourget. For anyone, but a passenger passes are required to gain access to the ramp or a hangar. Le Bourget is a bit unique in that there are a number of vendors and private hangars in the center of the airfield. Vehicles are not permitted any access to the airfield without first passing through a checkpoint and everyone and their baggage is thoroughly screened.
Flying is a business, but in the City of Lights the romance of flying has not been forgotten. Nor have the legends. The WWII era hangars bear the names of those who contributed to the growth of aviation. In a very touching and endearing tribute to one of America’s greatest aviators the spot on the tarmac where Charles Lindbergh’s Ryan NYP “Spirit of St. Louis” rolled to a stop is marked and a statue honoring Lindbergh graces the entrance to the airport. The anniversary of this epic flight across the North Atlantic recently passed, though I venture to guess that few, if any, current travelers noticed.
I wonder what Charles Lindbergh would think if he could see this airfield today and the machines that frequent it. He would love it I imagine. I do. Captain Lindbergh opened the door to air travel across the pond and beat a path to Le Bourget. So get your headings straight and do the same, but perhaps in something more comfortable than that old Jenny.