What Are the Names of Airplanes? - Classifications and Commercial Transport Aircraft

What Are the Names of Airplanes? - Classifications and Commercial Transport Aircraft
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A variety of airplanes fly around the world each day. Each of these airplanes is built for a specific purpose and has a different shape and design. A specific type of airplane is manufactured according to the application it would be used for and also on the basis of requirement. Thus, it is mainly on the basis of purpose that these airplanes are classified. What are the names of airplanes? In this article we will learn as to what are the names of the different types of airplanes and how they are classified on the basis of their purpose.

Classification of Airplanes

Airplanes are divided into five main categories on the basis of utility and purpose. It is according to these factors that the design of an airplane is initiated, though the basic factors remain the same in all.

The main types of airplanes are as follows:

  1. Commercial transport planes
  2. General aviation planes
  3. Military planes
  4. Sea planes
  5. Special purpose planes

Commercial Transport Planes

Commercial transport planes, or commercial planes as they are commonly known, can either be used for passengers or cargo. The size of these planes is generally larger than the other types of planes. Some of these planes are also known as airliners.

All the modern commercial transport planes use jet engines which allow them to fly at a speed as high as 500-600 miles per hour. These planes generally have a minimum of four jet engines, however, there are planes which have as many as eight. Commercial transport planes are supposed to be among the fastest type of airplanes. They have the basic structure of an airplane, comprising of a fuselage and two large wings fixed with the required jet engines. The jet engines themselves are also used in military aircraft.

A famous example of a commercial passenger plane is Boeing 747, a four jet plane. This plane can carry as many as 1000 passengers at a time and has a fuel-carrying capacity of 47,000 gallons, which allows it to fly for a prolonged period of time.

A Boeing 747 plane has the distinction of being the first large capacity modern commercial passenger plane constructed. Moreover, it also contains all high-class facilities required for the passengers’ comfort. Some of the features of this airplane include six galleys, twelve washrooms, and four bars and lounges.

Apart from four-jet airplanes, there are also three-jet and two-jet planes. These planes have a smaller passenger-carrying capacity and cannot travel for long durations as compared to their four-jet counterparts. However, twin-jet planes are the most reliable and widely used planes in the world.

Commercial transport planes are generally named using the company’s name and model number. Each is also issued a serial number to tell the aircraft apart. Some, however, are simply one-off designs such as the Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde.

Image credits : Boeing 747 Take-off - Boeing Website (https://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/gallery/images/commercial/747-06.jpg)

General Aviation Planes

General aviation planes are different types of airplanes that are commonly utilized for pilot training purposes as well as a wide variety of other uses. These are small planes with one, two, four or six seats, and have fewer engines than other aricraft. As the purpose of the vehicles requires short duration flights, these planes usually have only a single engine. General aviation planes are also used for recreational purposes for people who have an overall love for flying.

General aviation planes are also extremely useful to farmers, who use them for sowing seeds, spraying insecticides or fertilizers over the farms, and for counting livestock.These aircraft are also useful for taking aerial photographs, assessing a situation in case of natural calamity, and for short distance transportation.

Like commercial planes, the company’s name and model number are used to identify the craft. However, since these are usually smaller in size and often owned by individuals, it is common practice to give the craft a name, much like boats are christened. For example, Charles Lindberg’s plane used to cross the Atlantic was titled “The Spirit of St. Louis.”

general plane

Image credits - Pilot training plane - Stevedold website ( https://www.stevedold.com/aviation/152_exterior.jpg)

Military Planes

Military planes are the most sophisticated and fastest planes used by people. Utilized for defense purposes by countries, military planes are designed as the most technically advanced models around the world. Military planes are specifically used for attacking enemy areas both on land and water using various armaments from standard impact bombs to computer-guided missiles.

Military planes also carry soldiers and equipments to and from bases around the world. Unlike other types of airplanes, some of the military airplanes can be used without a runway, such as the McDonnell-Douglas Harrier, which can perform vertical take-offs.

The way military aircraft are named generally stems from their purpose, whether fighter, bomber or cargo planes. For example, a fighter plane would have the designation F-13 or F-22, while bombers typically have B-1 or B-2. Cargo planes, such as the C-130, begin with their own particular letter. Additional names are issued to identify each model. For example the F-15 is designated the “Eagle.”

military aircraft

Image Credits : Military Aircraft Flying - Starbbs website ( https://www.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/050812-F-2295B-947.jpg)

Sea Planes

What are the names of airplanes commonly known as boat planes? Sea planes are a type of propeller planes which do not use jet engines. The salient feature of this type of plane is that they can land both on water as well as on sea. Sea planes can be mainly divided into different categories.

  1. Float planes
  2. Flying boats
  3. Amphibians

Float planes, as the name suggests, are water planes which have floats instead of wheels as to facilitate them to land on water.

Flying boats are nothing but planes which have bodies in the shape of the hull of a ship. The hull itself helps in takeoff and landing of the plane.

Amphibians are a peculiar kind of plane which are shaped as frogs. As the name suggests, amphibian planes have a design that can facilitate them to land on both water and solid surface. They have a boat hull shaped design which allows it to land on water, and also a landing gear that extends out of the hull whenever the plane wants to land on a solid surface. Amphibians are widely considered the best type of seaplanes.

Much like general aviation craft, sea planes typically are named for the company and model and issued consumer-titled names.


floating boat

Image Credits:

Seaplane at shore - Ballerride website ( https://www.ballerride.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/seaplane.jpg)

Seaplane with floats - Vancouverisland website (https://www.vancouverisland.travel/img/stakeholders/NorthWestSeaPlanes.jpg)

Special Purpose Planes

Special purpose planes are made to carry out specific functions. They are used for specific tasks such as duty in natural disasters, spraying chemicals, and to providing relief during emergency situations.

An example of a special purpose plane is that of an aircraft designed to extinguishing forest fires. These planes have a provision to suck and store water from nearby ponds and lakes in large tanks in the underbelly. They also have spraying system which helps them to spray the water on forest fires from above.

Special purpose planes are less controlled than other aircraft in regards to naming procedures. While the company’s name and model number are typically used, other titles can be given depending on their use. For example, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection uses Grumman S-2 T 1 airtankers to put out fires. Each one is named an internal designation to provide standard identification procedures within the department.

fire extinguishing planes

Image Credits : Fire Extingusihing Plane At work - Guim website (https://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2008/04/28/fire276.jpg)

When determining what are the names of airplanes, one must take into account the different types of airplanes are designed for specific purposes and can be utilized in various conditions. While access and use of these planes varies from country to country as well as branches of the aviation industry, the overall dynamics of the aircraft remain the same. The one common denominator of each of the different types of airplanes is the fact that they continue to advance with technology, prompting even newer names for each model.



Dahnsen, Alan. Aircraft. London: Franklin Watts, 1978.

Online References:

“Aviation Safety” Boeing: https://www.boeing.com/commercial/safety/

Aeronautics Learning Laboratory for Science, Technology and Research: https://www.allstar.fiu.edu/

“Air Program” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection: https://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_protection/fire_protection_air_program.php