History of the Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace

The Musee de l’Air et de l’espace is the oldest aviation museum in the world and this air and space museum in Paris is located at Le Bourget airport, which also hosts the Paris Air show every other year that is also the largest air show of its kind in the world.

The start of the Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace

It was shortly after the Great War, or World War I, that Albert Cquot, who was the technical chief of aerospace, proposed the the War Minister that a conservatory of aeronautics should be created.

And so, the first elements of different aviation collections were put together in warehouses initially at Issy-les Moulineaux in 1919 and then Chalais-Meudon both located in the suburbs of Paris.
Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace Air France Concorde aircraft
In fact, Chalais-Meudon was the centre for pioneering aviation for balloons and then air ships when hangars were built way back in the 1880s, and the collection at the time it was inaugurated in 1921, only consisted mainly of observation balloons and aircraft that had survived World War I.

As time went on, the aviation collection grew substantially, yet the Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace did not have sufficient room in which to present the collections properly or with the dignity that many of these aircraft and artefacts deserved, even though it was visited by the public right up until 1981.

Yet when the decision was made to create the new Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in 1973, it was also decided that the Museum of Air and Space would be relocated to better facilities and a more appropriate place at Le Bourget.

The start of the museum at Le Bourget Airport

Starting to put collections together and design the first exhibition hall, the Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace was first inaugurated at the Aeroport de Paris-Le Bourget with one exhibition hall in 1975.

And gradually, right up until after the original museum closed, the new museum of air and space opened new exhibits both on the land and in the halls every two years, and the three Fouga Magister aircraft that were originally used to train fighter pilots that had the colours of the Patrouille de France air display team were positioned at the entrance to the museum.

But then the next major opening was the Great Gallery in 1987, that occupies the premises of the old terminal of Le Bourget Airport, and contains the finest collection of ballooning components and early aviation from World War I.

Two new showrooms were added in 1995 in order to better present the time of balloons and the first airships and contain objects such as baskets, models and technical equipment dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace Fighter aircraft
World War I! plane at Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace
1996 saw the opening of another hall that exposed the prototype Concorde 001 and in 2003 the Concorde Sierra Delta arrived, so now you can discover two of the most famous supersonic planes at the Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace museum.

From the year 2000 to the present

Yet much has gone on during the most recent years including the opening of a Boeing 747 exhibit, the arrival of a rare 37E Viggen SAAB SK fighter plane and the opening of a hall for World War II.

There is also now a permanent exhibition dedicated to Antoine Saint-Exupery, who was a pilot and one of the pioneers of postal flight but also became famous for his novels and a new hall opened dedicated to rotary wing, and this was launched on the centenary of the birth of the helicopter in 2007.
Biplane at Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace
And the museum is still continuing to expand, both with simulators and multimedia applications along with the preservation and restoration of aircraft and aviation objects, which are kept in a separate part of the museum buildings.  And it is normally only on Heritage days that people are privileged enough to get a glimpse into the workshops at this museum in Paris.

However, after years of the two seater jet Fouga Magister fighter planes being exposed to the elements whilst hanging in the air, they needed major renovation and were taken down in 2011 to be restored.  But it turned out that they were unfortunately beyond repair.

Yet these 1950s aircraft are the main figurehead of the Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace museum, and replicas of these are now being produced to take their place, and any person that provides a donation will have their name listed on an original support by the esplanade when the new replicas are inaugurated.

Address and contact details

Musee de l'Air et de l'Espace, Aeroport de Paris - Le Bourget, 3 Esplanade de l’Air et de l’Espace, BP 173 – 93352 Le Bourget, Ile de France, France

Reservations Tel: +33 (0) 1 49 92 70 00
Museum Tel: +33 (0) 1 49 92 70 62

Related information

Musee de l’Air et de l’Espace
Le Bourget Airport
Paris Air Show

Transport options

Paris Metro line 7
Bus line 148
Bus line 152
Bus line 350
RER Train line B