Airliners in the Mountains at Chambéry airport

Airliner spotting at Chambéry Airport is not a year round activity. The airport gets scheduled and charter flights exclusively in the winter months, from about november to april, with all flights scheduled on weekends and a few on Fridays. I have visited the airport on a few occasions before, but never on a “winter sports charter” day. The weather forecast was good for the weekend, and with a bit of luck, I could possibly see a 757 on one of the most difficult approaches in the world!

An airport unlike any other

Located just 55 km from the airport lies the biggest ski resort on the planet, Les 3 Vallées – Val Thorens/Les Menuires/Méribel/Courchevel. This means it takes between 15 minutes (if you’re ready to drop a few thousand on a helicopter ride) and 1,5h (using road transport) before you can be putting skis on and get ready to ride.

To give you an idea of the passengers traffic, there were 23 flights scheduled this Saturday, when I visited the airport. On Sunday, there were 5 flights. With its mountain climate and changing winds, it can be challenging to get the shots you want!

CMF has one runway, 36/18, which is fairly short, at 2020 m. It has turn pads on both ends of the runway, which all departing aircraft use to get use of the additional runway length before the displaced thresholds. Approaches are mostly performed on the 4,4 degree CAT I ILS over the lake, and takeoffs are made towards the north.

Spotting time

To take advantage of the gorgeous light, I went to the spot next to the threshold of runway 36, right next to the first taxi way. The first plane to land was this little biz jet.

Right after 8 am, I heard the Thomson 757 on the radio descending through 6000 feet. Now was time for the surprise. Would they send it into the circuit?

Unfortunately, tot that day.. The wind was very calm, so all aircraft were sent straight to the ILS to runway 18. Unlucky.. But at least, the sky was clear! In the next 3 hours, the traffic kept coming in from various airports in the UK, Germany and Russia.

Migrating to the North

I wasn’t the only one flying around the airport, this heron was also up to something. I think he might have zeroed in on some frogs in the nearby swamp.

Right after the second 757 landed around 11 am, I decided to go to the other spot which is right next to the end of runway 36, a few hundred meters from the Lac du Bourget. As I was speeding to the spot, I saw one of the 757 back-tracking runway 36 getting ready to takeoff. The pilots obviously didn’t wait for me to get my gear ready and just bluntly stormed out of runway 18. At least I managed the following shot.

At that point, the sun was already high, almost right above the runway. The show was continuing, starting with “Misty”.


The whole airport is surrounded by great locations for spotting. The following video and pictures were taken from the road that runs right above the North side of the airport.

The same landing, from the big camera:

4th 757 of the day, still no cirling approach

The lucky shot

As the sky was getting more and more cloudy around 1pm, i finally decided to call it a day and get on the 1h journey back to Grenoble. As I came home and started editing pictures, I noticed an interesting duo. There were two pictures of a Thomson 757 that looked as if they were in the exact same angle, although one was landing on runway 18, and the other taking off from runway 36. See for yourself…

If you want to see what the circling approach looks like from a Jet2 757, check out my other article with a video of this incredible approach!

Until next time!