AIRSHOW GUIDE: AIR LEGEND
AIRSHOW GUIDE: AIR LEGEND
GUIDE BY ADAM LANDAU
Launched in 2018, Air Legend Paris – Villaroche has quickly become one of our favourite European airshows, and by some measures, it is now the largest airshow in France. Broadly warbird themed, but with a very healthy selection of French military participants, Air Legend brings together some of Europe’s rarest display assets, most of which are displayed imaginatively and to a very high standard. There is a particular focus on warbirds that are rarely seen in France, with organisers drawing heavily on British, Belgian, German, Swiss and Austrian-based aircraft. Recent performers including the Flying Bulls’ P-38 and B-25, the UK’s Ultimate Fighters formation team, the airfield’s home-based de Havilland Vampire, the Breguet Alize, Breguet Atlantique, Fouga Magister, CA-13 Boomerang, F-86 Sabre, a pair of Skyraiders, Hawker Fury, Morane 406 and the Gusto Delta Mirage 2000 tactical display. The organisers are also unafraid to stage impressive set pieces and flybys, including a re-enactment of Pearl Harbour, three-ship formation Corsair aerobatics in 2021 and a formation of a DC-3, two Mustangs and the Patrouille de France in 2019.
It can be a quirky event at times; aircraft often fly in unusual combinations and some can appear only fleetingly, but the sheer number of aircraft involved and the unmatched storytelling that organisers present makes Air Legend one of the finest and most exciting airshows on the European circuit.
- Thursday: Showground closed; a few early arrivals and rehearsals
- Friday: Showground open to spotters; expect numerous arrivals and rehearsals
- Saturday: Showground fully open 07:30-19:00, 4-hour flying display 13:00-17:00 and private evening air display at 20:00
- Sunday: Showground fully open 07:30-19:00, 4-hour flying display 13:00-17:00 followed by departures
- Monday: Showground closed; expect several departures
Ticketing for Air Legend is refreshingly simple. In 2021, a standard admission ticket cost €25 in advance, with discounted admission of €13 for children under 17 and free admission for children under 12. After the earlybird offer expires, tickets sell for €30 per adult online or €40 on the gate. The price for children aged between 12 and 17 increases to €15 and €20 respectively.
Access to the flightline walk costs €5 per person, and can be purchased either in advance or on the day. The flightline walk is a designated walking route across the parking area used by the aerial display aircraft. It is typically open from around 10am until midday.
The airshow offers a Spotters Package, with various prices available for prices not much greater than standard entry tickets. For more information, see the Spotters Package section.
The airshow offers a Spotters Package, which includes the use of two private spotters enclosures and access to the flightline walk after the end of the show. Unlike in previous years, from 2022 onwards, tickets will be sold on a daily basis, with no multi-day packages available. Also new for 2022, there will be no spotters access for Monday departures, which are mostly not visible from the showground.
Spotter tickets cost €40 for Friday (arrivals, rehearsals and a private evening show) and €50 for Saturday or Sunday. That is double the cost of standard earlybird tickets, but only €5 more than the on-the-gate standard entry fee, if you factor in the cost of the flightline walk.
The Spotters Package at Air Legend receives mixed reviews. The main runway is out of sight of the showground, meaning the spotters package will not give a good view of many of the Friday arrivals. The main advantage is that practice displays are viewable on Friday, which, combined with arrivals, means the day sees almost as much action as a full airshow.
During the show days, the package permits access to two small enclosures. The first is located at show centre, and gets rather busy – if you want a good spot, be sure to be in position soon after gates open. Due to its proximity to the VIP enclosures, the view to the left can be a little obstructed. The second enclosure is at the southern end of the showground, but the crowdline is short enough that by the standard of many similarly-sized airshows, it would be considered satisfyingly close to show centre. Much less crowded, but sometimes very muddy, this enclosure has the added benefit of offering a limited view towards the main runway to the south and is our enclosure of choice. However, the public areas of the showground near this enclosure offer a similar view and do not get particularly busy either.
While spotters are given free reign of the flightline after hours, during the glorious evening light, to the frustration of photographers, most aircraft have already had their covers put on for the night. On Saturday, spotters also enjoy the after-hours benefit of a short night air display, staged mainly for the benefit of pilots, participants and VIP guests at the after-show hangar party.
Based on this, we felt the spotter experience on the public days was not much different to that of the general public – although spotters are likely to get a little more space to themselves, thanks to the private enclosures. Luckily, the price reflects this, being cheaper than at many comparable events. Attending on the Friday is worthwhile, however, providing an extra day of airshow action with a minimal crowd.
With a relatively short crowdline, it doesn’t matter too much where visitors choose to watch the show. Our preference is the southern half of the showground, which tended to be much less busy than the central area, offers slightly more favourable lightning conditions in the early afternoon and has a limited view of Runway 10/28. Much of the northern half of the crowdline is taken up by hospitality tents. The far northerly end is open to the public, but there is a certain amount of airshow infrastructure, fencing and small trees that obstruct the view slightly.
Runway 10/28 is used by larger, faster and heavier airrcraft. It is located some distance from the showground and is hidden behind a hedgerow. This means that take-offs and landings by the larger and faster aircraft are almost impossible to either watch or photograph, but fleeting glances can be obtained from the southern end of the showground.
Good views of Runway 19/01 can be found along the entire crowdline. Wind permitting, organisers prefer aircraft to take off on Runway 01 and land on Runway 19 to minimise taxy times.
The crowd faces east, with the air display running from around 1pm to 5pm, so expect the light to be harsh and the displays backlit for around the first 90 minutes of the flying display, but by mid-afternoon this will be replaced with glorious lighting conditions.
Both of Paris’ main airports, Orly and Charles de Gaulle, are well served by flights from around the world, and well connected to the city’s public transport network. The airshow also permits very limited General Aviation arrivals, by prior arrangement.
The airshow is located about a one hour drive south of central Paris, very close to the A5b and A5 motorways.
There is plentiful parking, but it is dispersed over a wide area. The nearest car parks are located in the fields next to the airport. The farthest car parks are either a half-hour walk from the showground or a short trip by shuttle bus.
We suggest arriving at the show no later than 8:30am, when traffic is relatively light. Arriving from the D619/D35 junction at Limoges-Fourches gives the best chance of being directed to the car parks closest to the showground.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT:
Public transport is not particularly practical on Friday, but the airshow runs a shuttle bus from Melun railway station on Saturday and Sunday. Melun is served every 30 minutes by RER Ligne D from stations such as Creil, Saint-Denis, Paris Gare du Nord, Châtelet – Les Hales, Paris Gare de Lyon and Corbeil Essones. The journey time from central Paris to Melun by RER is just under one hour. Beware that the line splits several times after leaving Paris, so not all southbound RER Ligne D trains are bound for Melun. Additionally to the RER, Transilien services run non-stop from Gare de Lyon to Melun, also operating every half an hour, with a journey time of around 25 minutes.
Tickets between central Paris and Melun can be purchased from any train station and may be used on either RER or Transilien services (or a combination of both, if you start your journey anywhere other than Gare du Lyon). The cost is €8.20 each way.
The airshow then runs a shuttle bus from Melun station to the airfield with a journey time of around 15 minutes. Officially, this bus runs at set times with an approximate frequency of 20-30 minutes and a reservation for a specific bus must be placed in advance via the show’s websiteConfirmation of your reservation must be shown to the driver while boarding. You must then pay the driver for your return ticket in cash, costing €3.
In practice, buses did not seem to stick to the timetable and the driver did not ask to see proof of reservation, although the ticket fee was of course collected upon boarding at Melun. On both days, we arrived at Melun station at approximately 8am. The buses collected passengers from outside the station, next to a lamp post that carried an airshow poster. We boarded the bus promptly, and the bus then left the station immediately, several minutes before its scheduled departure time, even though it was mostly empty. When leaving the airshow at the end of the day, it may be some time before a bus arrives, and it may not have space to accommodate everybody who is waiting to catch it. Some lucky individuals may wait just a few minutes for a bus, but unlucky timing and a longer queue could result in a wait of up to an hour before boarding.
There is some accommodation in Melun itself, such as a pair of Ibis hotels in the northern outskirts of the town. There are very few hotel options within walking distance of the railway station however. Those reliant on public transport may find the best option is to find accommodation along RER Ligne D, between Paris and Melun. For those who wish to stay in central Paris, while still being within easy reach of Melun by train, the area around Gare du Lyon would be a good choice.