In animal models, resident memory CD8+ T (Trm) cells assist in respiratory virus elimination but their importance in man has not been determined. Here, using experimental human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection, we investigate systemic and local virus-specific CD8+ T-cell responses in adult volunteers. Having defined the immunodominance hierarchy, we analyse phenotype and function longitudinally in blood and by serial bronchoscopy. Despite rapid clinical recovery, we note surprisingly extensive lower airway inflammation with persistent viral antigen and cellular infiltrates. Pulmonary virus-specific CD8+ T cells display a CD69+CD103+ Trm phenotype and accumulate to strikingly high frequencies into convalescence without continued proliferation. While these have a more highly differentiated phenotype, they express fewer cytotoxicity markers than in blood. Nevertheless, their abundance before infection correlates with reduced symptoms and viral load, implying that CD8+ Trm cells in the human lung can confer protection against severe respiratory viral disease when humoral immunity is overcome.