History of the Air and Space Museum
The most important aeronautical museum in France, the Musée de l’air et de l’espace Bourget is located near Paris, at the airport of the same name, with Anne-Catherine Robert as its director. It was founded in 1919 by Albert Caquot, a great French engineer. This museum is one of the oldest aeronautical museums and one of the largest in the world. Inaugurated in 1921, it was originally located in the town of Meudon, before being moved to the site of the Paris le Bourget airport in 1973 after being closed by the Germans during the Second World War.
- 1919: the Ministry of War grants the creation of a conservatory of aeronautics to Albert Caquot. In the following years, the first collections were assembled in a hangar in Issy-les-Moulineaux.
- 1921 : inauguration of the Museum in Meudon, presenting a rich aviation collection.
- 1936 : the museum moves to the 15th arrondissement of Paris, with the reserves kept on the original site in Meudon.
- 1937 : inauguration of the air terminal at Le Bourget.
- 1939 – 45 : closure of the museum’s hall, which was partially destroyed by a bomb a year later, leading to the return of the museum’s collections to Meudon.
- 1973 : following the decision to create the Paris-Charles-De-Gaulle airport and thus a foreseeable decrease in the activity of Le Bourget airport, the Minister of the Armed Forces decides to regroup the museum’s collections on the Le Bourget site.
- 1975: inauguration of the first exhibition hall. Until 1983, numerous expansions and the opening of a new hall every two years.
- 1981: commercial flights ceased at Le Bourget airport, which became reserved for business aviation. The Meudon site officially closed.
- 1983: inauguration of the “Hall Espace” and official naming of the “Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace”.
- 2019: celebration of the museum’s centenary.
This museum is now very famous. Its location near the airport and airfields make it a complete adventure from start to finish. You can take guided tours to see the first airplanes, the light aviation of the first and the great war, mythical restoration workshops. Visiting the museum teaches us the history of aviation, from the first flight through the history of supersonic aircraft of the Patrouille de France, the air force, helicopters and even air transport. Otherwise, activities are proposed such as simulators allowing you to believe you are at the controls of a plane of an airline company. In a flight simulator you can take off the plane, the performances of the planes are as realistic as possible which makes the experience even more immersive.
The collections and activities of the Air and Space Museum
Photo credit: Flickr
The museum has 18,000 m2 of exhibits and an exceptional collection. The latter covers all the themes of aeronautics and space, with over 19,600 objects.
The first collection concerns aviation before 1900 and the pioneers, with a large collection of engines and reconstructions of the first flying machines from the 12th and 19th centuries. In the Grand Gallery we find the most important world collection of aircraft from the beginnings of aviation until 1920, including the Morane-Saulnier which allowed Roland-Garros to cross the Mediterranean in 1913.
In the air terminal of Le Bourget, there is a permanent exhibition on the Air War from 1914 to 1918, with aircraft that were initially used for reconnaissance, but which were soon engaged in combat with the enemy. The battle of Verdun in 1916 marks the beginning of aerial hunting.
The interwar collection includes a relic of the Oiseau Blanc, the plane in which François Coli and Charles Nungesser disappeared in 1927 while attempting to fly from Paris to New York.
Numerous German, American, Soviet and French military aircraft from the Second World War are on display. The museum also has the remains of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s P-38, found in 2003 near the island of Riou located south of Marseille.
Several prototypes of military aircraft from the French aircraft manufacturer Marcel Dassault are also preserved, including those of the Mirage 4000 and the Mirage 2000.
Concerning civil aviation, many models are also present, including two Concordes, a Boeing 747, an Aerospatiale Corvette business jet, and an Airbus A380. There are also several helicopters on display in a dedicated hall, such as the Breguet G.111 or the Alouette III. Recreational aviation is also represented, with gliders and aerobatic aircraft from before and after World War II.
The museum devotes an entire hall to space exploration, with many exhibits, including the following:
- the first French rocket, developed from 1941, the EA-41
- the models of the Ariane 1 and Ariane 5 rockets
- two S3 ballistic missiles
- models of satellites : Sputnik 1, Vostok 1, SPOT-1…
- Russian space suits
The museum also has a planetarium, open on Wednesdays and the first weekend of each month. It offers many documentaries on the world of the museum in general.
A flight simulator also allows you to experience the different procedures used by the pilot in the different phases of flight, from take-off to landing.
A visit of the Control Tower of the Labro terminal dating from 1937 is also proposed.
Finally, the museum’s reserves are open to the public during the European Heritage Days. They present many other objects and aircraft not on display in the museum.
Many events are also organized on the premises of the Air and Space Museum. Throughout the year, such as the Salon des Formations et Métiers aéronautiques, the Nuit des étoiles or the Ciné Tarmac.
Air and Space Museum rates and practical information
The Museum is open all year round from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm from October 1 to March 31 and from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm from April 1 to September 30. The entrance fee, including the visit of the museum and the airplanes, is 16€ for the full price. Admission to the museum is free every first Sunday of the month.
The Museum is located on the site of Le Bourget airport, 10 minutes from Paris on the A1. By bus, the access is done by the line 610, 350, 152 or 148. The bus stop is: “Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace”. By metro, take line 7 to “Courneuve” station and then bus line 152. By RER B, get off at “Le Bourget” station and take bus line 152.
Many hotels are located around the Museum and allow access on foot, such as the AC Hotel Paris Le Bourget Airport, or the Mercure Le Bourget Hotel, both 4 stars.