The idea of the third Paris airport emerged in the 1950s. With the exponential increase in air traffic, Orly and Le Bourget were close to saturation.
The advent of wide-body jets able to offload over 400 passengers at a time was already on the horizon. There was no doubting the need, therefore, no less than the reference to Charles de Gaulle, who had died in 1970. The airport’s location, at Roissy-en-France, some 45km north of Paris, was also an easy choice, as the available surface area offered outstanding prospects for a world capital. The airport’s appearance, however, was hotly debated!
Designed by 30-something architect Paul Andreu, CDG1 was an innovative concept – a central disk, linked to seven satellites – which was designed to streamline passenger movements. It was disconcerting, but resolutely modern, and chimed perfectly with the self-assured France of Concorde and the future high-speed train.
Eight years in the building, the atypical CDG 1 was inaugurated on 8 March 1974 by then Prime Minister Pierre Messmer. Five days later, a TWA Boeing 747 from New York inaugurated Runway 1 at 6 a.m. The very same day saw the first departures of Air France aircraft.
Initially, the Company limited itself to a handful of domestic (Bordeaux, Nice, Toulouse) and European (London, Geneva, Frankfurt, Turin, Lisbon) routes.
The real installation took place in November 1974, when two-thirds of flights and some industrial activities were transferred to Roissy. From then on, CDG became THE platform where Air France could spread its wings.