Plane-spotting for beginners (with flow chart)


Hello frequent flyer.

Do you know your 737s from your 320s? Or do you only recognize A380s and B747s? If you are going to spend a lot of time at the airport, it can be nice to straighten your neck, look up from your phones and test your plane-spotting skills every now and then.

This simple flow chart will help you identify common commercial passenger airplanes in the world right now.

Identification methods

1) Number of engines

This one is very straight forward. All you have to do is count the number of engines on the plane. Seeing 3 or 4 engines immediately eliminates 72% of the planes above. Airplane engines are always symmetrical, if you see two engines on one side, you can be sure that there will be two more on the other side.


2) Cabin levels

This refers to the number of rows of passenger windows that you can see on the plane.

3) Location of engines

Most passenger aircrafts in the world right now have their engines mounted underneath the wings. Seeing two rear-mounted engines at the rear can most certainly mean that it is a Bombardier CRJ. What a beauty!

4) Winglet shapes

This refers to the tip of the wings on the aircraft. My favourites are those of Airbus A350.

The infamous Boeing 737 Max has unique winglets that split both ways.

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet, belonging to Air Canada, lands in Calgary, Alberta on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Larry MacDougal

5) Exhaust ducts

This refers to the back of the engine. Boeing 787 and 737 Max have similar chevron-toothed exhaust ducts.

6) Cockpit window designs

The easiest way to differentiate an Airbus from a Boeing is by looking for this cut-out notch on the side cockpit window. Note that not all Airbus aircrafts have this notch but when you see a notch, you can be sure that it is an Airbus.

You can also be sure that you are looking at a Boeing aircraft when you see the side cockpit window bend upwards like the photo below.

7) Exit doors above wing

This is pretty self explanatory.

8) Axles on rear landing gear

This refers to the rows of tyres that you see on the main landing gear.

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