Charles de Gaulle International Airport also known as Roissy Airport in Paris, is one of Europe’s principal aviation centers, as well as France’s main international airport. It is named after Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), leader of the Free France and founder of the French Fifth Republic. It is located near Roissy, 25 km to the north-east of Paris. The construction of Charles de Gaulle International Airport lasted about 10 years.
In 2004, Charles de Gaulle International Airport ranked second in Europe in terms of passenger traffic with 51,260,363 passengers, behind London HeathrowAirport(67,344,054), and just above Frankfurt International Airport(51,098,271). In terms of plane movements Charles de Gaulle International Airport was number one in Europe with 525,660 planes, above Frankfurt International Airport (477,475) and Heathrow (475,999). In terms of cargo traffic, Charles de Gaulle International Airport was also number one in Europe in 2004 with 1,876,900 metric tonnes (2,068,928 US tons), above Frankfurt (1,838,894 metric tonnes) and Heathrow (1,412,033 metric tonnes).
Charles de Gaulle International Airport is connected to the RER urban rail network, providing service into downtown Paris three or four times per hour, and the high-speed rail TGV network.
After seven years of planning and construction, Charles de Gaulle International Airport began service on March 8, 1974. Terminal one was built to an avant-garde design consisting of a ten-floor high circular building surrounded by seven satellite buildings each with four gates. The main architect was Paul Andreu, who was also in charge of the extensions during the following decades.
On August 26, 1998, Merhan Kairmi Nasseri found himself held at Charles de Gaulle International Airport by immigration. He claimed he was a refugee, but had had his refugee papers stolen. After years of bureaucratic wrangling, it was concluded that Nasseri had entered the airport legally and could not be expelled from its walls; but since he had no papers, there was no country to deport him to either, leaving him in residential limbo. Nasseri has continued to live within the confines of the airport to this day, even though French authorities have since made it possible for him to leave if he so chooses.
The grassy lands on which Charles de Gaulle International Airport is located are notorious for hosting a large population of rabbits and hares, which can clearly be seen by aeroplane passengers at certain times of the day. Charles de Gaulle International Airport organizes periodic hunts and captures to keep the population to manageable levels.
On November 7, 2005, French law number 05-4979 was published, relating specifically to Charles de Gaulle airport. The law prohibits photographs being taken for private use of anything moving (e.g. aircraft) or not moving (e.g. buildings) within the “zone reservιe” – the restricted area – from the “zone publique” – the public area. It is not clear whether the public area refers to all areas from which the airport is visible, or only to areas within the grounds of Charles de Gaulle International Airport. The law is much to the consternation of plane spotters.