Payerne is the home of the fighter fleet of the Swiss Air Force. Aditionally, a variety of aviation-related military training is carried out here and the Solar Impulse experimental aircraft programme is based here. In the Spring of 2019, a civil terminal with its own apron and hangar was opened on the south side of the field. Payerne has a long reputation among aviation enthusiasts for being one of the best places to photograph military aircraft. However, here too, access has become less easy over time: the days of standing on shelters that border the taxiway are over. Please keep in mind that during the Summer, flying activities may be very low. Also some of the squadrons are reserve only and will mostly fly during their Wiederholungskurs (recurrent training), the schedules of which are published online.
A word of warning: the base is spotter-friendly in general, but do not place steps or ladders against the fence. This is not approved and respecting that, we can keep enjoying the possibilities here.
The airfield lies in flat terrain amidst farmlands and there are views onto the runway and taxiways from most sides. For a military base, the whole of taxiways and aprons is rather complex. Two public roads used to cross the runway and technically still do, but these crossings have been closed by default since around 2017. The east side holds most military facilities, on both sides of the runway. South of the runway, near its centre, is the civil aiport, with adjacent business area under development. The southern taxiway can double as a 2000m emergency runway, if necessary. In the southeast corner of the base between the two helispots, traces can still be seen of a sports arena seating over 52,000 spectators that was built and removed again for a three(!)-day event in August 2016.
The airfield is right along the A1/E25 motorway between Bern and Lausanne. Public transport is scarce so driving here is definitely the best option.
Around the Airport
Swiss Aeropole are the operators of the civil airport and the business park around it. They offer a great viewing terrace on top of their main building, overviewing most of the airfield and right in front of the civil apron. To use this facility, visitors must make prior arrangements and pay a modest fee. See our More Info panel for the Aeropole website with contact information. As the terrace is some 450m from the runway, bring a really long lens for photography and hope for clear air. The bizz apron is at about 200m and the southern taxiway between that and the runway.
To get here from the A1/E25 motorway, take exit 27 and turn onto the Route de Bussy towards Payerne. Then follow the signs to Aeropole, which is to the left at the next two roundabouts and finally right after the Belle Ferme farm complex. For those who have been here in the past: the ammunition bunker has become off-limits years ago.
The runway crossings are now closed by default, but this spot at the Route de Morens is still available. It offers a very close view on the southern taxiway, a rather good one on the runway and an acceptable one on the northern taxiway. Steps are needed for photography over the fence. To get here, follow the directions to the Aeropole but carry on straight ahead after Belle Ferme. As with the other spots on this side, the sun gets behind the planes halfway in the afternoon.
3Final runway 05
A classic spot on final along the fence, or rather an area with plenty of such positions to choose from. At mid-fternoon, the sun will be on the tail of the planes but later on, it gets better again when taking position north of the centreline (not marked on our map). The only access to this area is via very small farm roads though, and parked cars will definitely block the farmers' vehicles. For that reason, park at the location described under spot 4 please and walk the five to ten minutes to this area.
4Holding runway 05
Getting here is easy. From the A1, exit 27 Payerne, follow the signs to Estavayer-le-Lac. At the second roundabout counting from the motorway, after passing the approach lights on your right, turn right onto the Chemin de Vallegny. At the first crossroad, park out of the way near the buildings and walk towards the gate of the taxiway leading to the western cavern. At this spot, aircraft entering 05 at the beginning can be admired up close. The light is good for photos in the second halve of the afternoon and these can be shot through the gate or over the fence near the threshold.
This is a location for a view somewhat from above onto the field. From the parking location described under spot 4, drive uphill to the next road that parallels the airfield. Turn right and take position somewhere along this Route de Morens, just past the cavern that is south of the road might work best. The distance to the runway and taxiways is comparable to the Aeropole: some 450m for the runway.
6Morens runway crossing
Virtually all of the perimeter road along the north side of the field offers excellent views onto the runway and taxiways, but most of it between spots 5 and 7 is a no-stopping zone and the fence gets in the way for photos. Near the roundabout where the road from Payerne technically still crosses the manoeuvring area, photography (best light late afternoon and evening) should be possible through the gate. The closest parking options are in the village of Morens, and otherwise near the museum short of spot 7. The walk from or to Morens takes about five minutes.
Still along the same road is the military aviation museum Clin d'Ailes, also signposted from the Route de Payerne east of the field. The museum has a nice collection of aircraft, of which a Vampire is sitting outside on a pole. Through the glass facade, the rest can be seen even if the museum is closed. For opening times and fees, see the museum's website via our More Info panel on the right.
8Main gate & viewing area
From the museum, another 500m eastbound down the road is the simulator building with what looks like a large tank. Directly after that, a right turn into the dead-end road next to the large hangar 2 leads to the main gate and spot 8. The parking lot will be on the right, opposite the Mirage 3S on a pole. The official viewing area offers a good overview of the field, with facilities at hand. Horizontal openings at different heights in every section of the fence accomodate photograpers. The only drawback could be the relatively low number of them at a convenient height, so if you want to be absolutely sure, bring steps to shoot over the fence. Keep in mind that backlight may be a problem until halfway the afternoon. Walking up to the fence in front of the tower brings the apron behind hangar 2 in view; do not hang around in that corner though.
9Northern taxi gate
Continuing east along the perimeter from the main airbase gate (spot 8), one crosses a taxiway leading to one of the aircraft caverns outside the fence. The area at the gate where this taxiway leaves the base offers some views of the adjacent aprons. With runway 23 in use, F/A-18s will be holding there before departure. Photos are possible, including night shots if you are prepared. Parking is not allowed in this area, so find another place for that or move on quickly.
10Final runway 23
A nice spot on final with westerly winds, some 200m from the centreline. The light is OK until about halfway the afternoon. To get here from spot 2, simply take the road towards Payerne and, after passing the approach lights, turn off at the second small road to the left. Do not take the first one, as that is inside the no-stopping zone with aircraft flying there, and it is too close to the centreline for photos anyway. When driving here directly from the A1, follow the directions to spot 13 but at the last roundabout mentioned there take the third exit, northbound via the Route de Payerne. After passing underneath the motorway, take the second right to arrive at this vantage point.
To reach this spot, use the overfly of the Route de Payerne, next to the A1. Enter it by taking the turn-off just north of the underpass of the motorway. A Mirage 3S gate guard is posing for photos here and if anything of interest is parked in front of hall 5, it should be visible from this spot.
By continuing along the fence from spot 11, the remote eastern stands, helispots and possibly even the central aprons (although spot 8 may be better for that) can be checked for presence of aircraft or helicopters.
Hunger F58 J-4045 is guarding the gate of this barracks, behind the fence on the roadside. To get here from spot 10, follow the main road into town: third exit at the roundabout, direction of Payerne hospital. When arriving from the A1, follow the directions to spot 1 initially. Then, at the second roundabout after the motorway, take the second exit: more or less straight ahead. This again leads to a roundabout where spot 13 is at your right, so via the first exit there.
In the town of Payerne, Mirage 3RS R-2114 is preserved at the Caserne DCA. It should be visible from the main gate on the Route de Grancour. This is some 950m down the road from spot 13, so simply continue into town from the previous spot. You will be driving along the barracks and the gate is signposted.
For a more accessible relic, take the route south out of town. The car dealer at the Rue de la Vignette 60 has Vampire FB6 J-1134 outside on a stick. From the Caserne DCA, continue further into town and turn right at the first roundabout onto the Grand Rue. This becomes a one-way street in the old town. After 300m, take the junction to the left onto the Rue de Lausanne. Then continue straight ahead as much as possible and the Vampire will be on the left after another 1200m.
Great close-up action as seen from spot 4 in the afternoon, around 4pm LT in Summer. (Erik Kamphuis)
The F-5s from Emmen operate out of Payerne, like this one seen from spot 8 during take-off under a cloud cover. (Mark Broekhans)
|372.825 / 128.675||Tower|
|337.775 / 141.800||Approach|
|268.625 / 138.050||Info|
|J-1156 + various||This Vampire FB6 is on a stick outside the museum at spot 7; the rest is inside.|
|J-2334||Mirage 3S, on pole at main base gate, spot 8.|
|J-2324||Mirage 3S at spot 11.|
Order of Battle Switzerland
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|Ebenfluh (Axalp)   subscribers only|
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