Why Go Plane Spotting in Toulouse
Plane spotting in Toulouse is very special, it is one of the best spots in the world. Toulouse Blagnac Airport is not only an international passenger airport but home to Airbus manufacturing factories. As well as this, it is the base of the Airbus Test Flight team.
Plane spotting in Toulouse means you are not only expecting to see brand new planes on their first ever flights but also planes going through test campaigns that are not within normal flights. You might be able to see dramatic manoeuvres, sharp take offs or even rejected landings. If you are interested in seeing flight test operations, make sure to go on a weekday. Most flight operations at Airbus take place Monday-Friday with some Fridays even being a half day so weekends are not always the best days for plane spotting.
Toulouse is home to the Final Assembly Lines (FALs) of the A320, A330 and A350. The Final Assembly lines are the place where the aircraft pieces are put together like one enormous puzzle. It is common to see a wing or part of a fuselage attached to a truck being delivered to Toulouse.
Which Aircraft Can you Expect to see in Toulouse Airport?
My personal favourite and a rare gem: the Beluga and Beluga XL. The beluga and Beluga XL (the newer bigger version of the original plane) are used to transport aircraft parts from the factories to final assembly. The Beluga fuselage is significantly bigger than a normal plane to fit in the parts. The Beluga XL is painted like a Beluga Whale so is very distinctive.
The biggest passenger plane ever built and double decker throughout, this is a very impressive aircraft. The A380 is sadly no longer being built but you will see the A380 often flying in Toulouse as part of the flight test campaigns. This is because of 2 main reasons. Firstly, Airbus needs to know how some of the oldest aircraft perform after a long time and review maintenance in order to tell its customers. Secondly, the A380 has 4 engines but can perform well with 3. This means it is the perfect plane to test out new engines without risk to the flight crew.
A320NEOs (NEO = New Engine Option) from all over the world! The A320 is usually used as a short haul aircraft so to see it painted in designs from all over the world usually means worldwide travel- not in Toulouse! In Toulouse you can see paint schemes from airlines all over the world and very exciting ones. My favourite is frontier from America – each of their planes has a different animal on the tail.
Toulouse is also home to the ATR production line so also expect ATR42 or 72 flying in and out. The Airbus A400M is also flight tested out of Toulouse even though it is manufactured in Spain. This is a really impressive aircraft and it is fab to see it being pushed to its limits in and out of Toulouse airport.
Expect to see ‘unfinished’ looking aircraft. It can happen that a plane will have its first flight before completing the paint shop work. To an outsider the plane looks completely unfinished although it has just not been painted. They could be a dusty green or even a yellow colour. They are completely safe but are just different to what most people are used to.
As well as the operations as a result of Airbus, Toulouse airport is of course home to passenger and cargo traffic. AirFrance, EasyJet and Volotea all operate out of Toulouse as well as DHL for cargo.
The Best Places for Plane Spotting in Toulouse: Restaurants
Why not look at the planes while having a delicious meal. There are 2 restaurants that are great for seeing the planes.
Le Vingtieme Avenue
Le Vingtieme Avenue in Cornebarrieu is the perfect spot to plane spot with some food or drinks. The atmosphere is very casual and friendly. There is a large open air seating area with a perfect view over the whole runway. From here you can see the whole airport operations including taxi and takeoff. This is right next to ‘the Hill’ (See below).
Le Cantou is a very different atmosphere to Le 20eme Avenue. With very high-quality food and wine, this is a very special place to eat at. It also comes with a price tag. The Cantou has a beautiful garden that makes you feel like you could be in the grounds of a Chateau. The Cantou is located at the southern end of the runway, just across the road from the runway boundary. Although there is no view across the whole runway, planes fly over the garden very low as they come into land, it’s a great addition to a fantastic lunch! This is near ‘Parking 3A’ (see below).
The Best Places for Plane Spotting in Toulouse: Airside Locations
Marked on google maps as ‘The Hill’, this is a great spot to get a view of the whole runway. This is a hill with a grassy open area giving lots of space to get a great view. This is the favourite spot of many plane spotters so it is unlikely you will be alone.
The Hill gives a view over the Airbus Delivery Centre (ADC). The ADC is distinctive by the circular buildings next to each plane. This is the place in which the airline comes to inspect the plane and check they are happy with it before signing the ownership over. If you have a good eye, you will notice this has happened because the tail number changes from temporary stickers with a French registration (Still registered with airbus in France) to the permanent registration in paint (officially registered in the home country of the Airline).
Parking on Southern Side of the Runway
Parking on Chemin de Laporte is a great spot to view the aircraft as they are coming into land. This is the place that you will get closest to the planes and they might even fly directly above your head. Although the site access points for Airbus do change often, there is free parking for all and there are often lots of free spots. There is a footpath and bike path along Chemin de Laporte and Rue Velasquez to try different angles.
The Best Places for Plane Spotting in Toulouse: Best Distance View
For the best spot to see planes approaching Toulouse airport from afar, go to the observatory at the top of Pech David. On top of this hill, you get a perfect view of the aircraft on approach to Toulouse. As well as this, there is a lovely view over the city including the runway in the distance. This is my personal favourite spot for a sunset too.
Get Up Close and Personal with the Planes
If you are interested in how planes are put together, the ‘Let’s Visit Airbus’ tour is a great activity. There are 2 options, the normal or the ‘XL’ version. The standard tour offers a bus tour of the Airbus site, see some of the latest aircraft and visit the A350XWB production line. The XL tour adds in an explanation about flight tests as well as a visit to the A400M MSN001. (MSN = Manufacturer’s serial number). You can also combine this with a visit to Aeroscopia which gives a detailed exhibition about the history of aircraft in Toulouse.
Now you Know all The Best Places for Plane Spotting in Toulouse
That’s all of the best places to spot planes in Toulouse. I hope you have the best time seeing all of the amazing aircraft Toulouse has to offer.