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Whether you’re a novice pilot or aviation expert, you might not know of all the different types of planes out there. So let’s take a look!
There are all kinds of different planes out there, but most of them can be broken down into four main categories — propeller planes (and other small aircraft), commercial planes, private and business jets, and military aircraft. We’ll look at multiple examples of each plane in this article.
In the relatively brief history of flight and aviation, there have been hundreds — if not thousands — of different types of planes built. In this article, you’ll learn about the 11 most common types of planes and aircraft out there today. These planes will be separated into the four major categories of aircraft mentioned above, and we’ll give a few specific examples of some of the types of planes throughout the article.
While we have many years of experience in the aviation industry ourselves, our main focus on this site is to provide our readers with the best information out there. So to look into the different types of planes out there, we used our own personal experience combined with the types of planes that other pilots and aviation experts have flown and/or worked on throughout their lives. This way, you get the best info possible!
What Are The Different Types Of Planes?
Even if you don’t know much about the history of aviation and the huge strides that humanity has taken in terms of plane development in the last century, it’s easy to see that there are all types of planes out there.
There are some you can hop in and fly yourself around to a nearby city or state. Others that you can sit inside with hundreds of other people and fly anywhere in the world. Some planes out there deliver cargo across the world and make overnight shipping a reality. And then there are some planes out there that strike fear in the hearts of the enemy during times of war.
And we could go deeper and deeper and take a look at the thousands of different types of models of aircraft that have ever been built. But you probably don’t want to sit here for the next year or two reading this article. So we’ll shorten it up a bit and take a look at the four main types of planes — propeller planes and other small aircraft, commercial aircraft, business and private jets, and military aircraft.
Let’s dive right in.
Types Of Propeller Planes and Other Small Aircraft
We’ll start off with the basics. Just like new pilots will start off by learning to fly in these small aircraft, we’ll start by taking a look at them. The first type of plane is small aircraft, such as propeller planes, single-engine aircraft, and more. If you’re thinking about getting a pilot’s license, either private or commercial, you’ll almost always start learning in one of these!
Single Engine Planes
Single-engine planes are the true backbone of the aviation industry. These are the types of planes that you’ll almost certainly use during the early days of learning how to fly if you’re wanting to become a pilot. There are a few different kinds of single-engine planes, but the two most common ones include single-engine turboprops and piston engine planes.
In general, turboprops are a bit more commonly used for beginner pilots and are also bigger than their piston-engined counterparts. Both types of single-engine planes are ideal for learning to fly due to their maneuverability, ease of use, and plenty of forgiveness if any mistakes are made. Perhaps the most common example of a single-engine aircraft that many people learn to fly in is a Cessna 172 Skyhawk.
As you can probably guess from the name of this type of plane, twin-engine turboprops are a step up from the single-engine planes just above. These planes use two turboprop engines mounted inline with the wings rather than the nose-mounted engines of single-engine aircraft.
These aircraft are capable of handling a bit more than not only single-engine planes, but even the very light jets you’ll read about a little later. The hauling capacity of these planes is higher than comparable aircraft and they’re also capable of flying nearly straight up or down without stalling out, increasing their overall versatility and maneuverability.
Amphibious airplanes are a special type of aircraft that is designed to be able to take off and land in water. While that may sound entirely unnecessary or like something that’s even a bit scary, landing on water is not much different than landing on a runway if the plane is designed for it!
Amphibious planes are typically used to reach remote areas that are otherwise impossible to reach with other aircraft. Whether the plane is carrying tourists or cargo, amphibious planes give the aviation industry even more opportunities than ever. Instead of needing to fly a regular plane somewhere, drive to a boat, and then ride on the water, these planes take out all of those extra steps.
Types Of Commercial Airplanes
The next type of plane that we’ll take a look at is the one that most of us are likely familiar with — commercial airplanes (or passenger jets). If you’ve ever gone on vacation and flown to your destination, this is most likely the type of plane that you flew in. Designed to carry passengers (and cargo), commercial planes are really what makes the world go by. Without these planes, food couldn’t get delivered, businesses would go under, and nobody could travel around the world.
The true staple of the modern aviation industry: commercial airplanes.
Light Commercial Jets
The smallest kind of commercial jets, especially when it comes to carrying passengers, are light commercial jets. These types of relatively small commercial aircraft are ideal for economy airlines and flight routes that don’t necessitate the ability to carry hundreds of passengers. Light commercial jets are usually capable of handling about 50 to 100 passengers per flight.
On a commercial passenger jet, the most common arrangement of seating is two sections of two rows, with the aisle separating them down the middle. If this sounds like the kind of seats that you’ve been in before, then you’ve been in a light commercial jet! Due to their small size, light commercial jets are relatively cheap to operate and enable airlines and owners to generate profit more easily than the next two types of planes.
Mid-Size Commercial Jets
The sweet spot of commercial jets. Mid-size jets are the most common types of commercial jets (both passenger and cargo) in use across the world today. Mid-size jets are perfect for carrying passengers because they’re bigger than light commercial jets and can therefore carry more passengers and have much more ample luggage carrying capacity than their smaller counterparts.
These jets can typically carry a few hundred passengers at a time (300 - 400) and typically have six rows of seating total, split between two rows of three on each side of the aisle. These jets are able to travel at faster speeds than the smaller ones above but are also cheaper to fly and operate than the jumbo jets below. So in most cases, a mid-size jet is the ideal option for commercial flying purposes.
Jumbo Commercial Jets
As you can probably guess from the name, jumbo commercial jets are those massive planes that you might see at the airport. Jumbo jets are often also referred to as wide-body jets due to their massive size. In all actuality, the term “jumbo jet” is relatively new, as it was not used to describe a jet aircraft until the wildly popular Boeing 747 was released in 1989.
Jumbo jets are designed to be able to carry more passengers (600+) and/or more cargo than any other planes on the planet, so they’re typically used for the busiest airports and most commonly used routes due to their high cost to operate. These massive jets (Boeing 747, Airbus A380, for example) are much more expensive to operate than smaller planes so airlines tend to use them a bit more sparingly.
Types Of Business and Private Jets
Next, we’ll take a look at the other type of plane that you might have taken a trip in, especially if you or your company has some extra money in their pockets! Business and private jets are those that you’ll typically see on TV that the super wealthy people around the world hop in at a moment’s notice and fly to their destination. If you’ve ever dreamed about having a private jet, these are the types of planes that you would have been thinking of.
Very Light Jets
The smallest type of business or private jet out there is known as very light jets. These small planes are typically capable of carrying up to around 6-8 passengers and are perfect for short trips and regional flights — typically around 45 to 60 minutes are so in terms of flight duration.
Though very light jets are fairly cheap to operate and are perfect for short flights, they aren’t the ideal situation for passengers. These small planes don’t have a private bathroom area, but rather typically just a privacy curtain and an emergency toilet. So if you’re going for a ride in one of these, make sure you go to the bathroom before you get on board!
Mid-Size Private Planes
Mid-size private jets and business planes are slightly bigger than the very light jets above, offering the ability to carry up to 10 passengers at a time. As the private and business jets get bigger from class to class, passengers are also offered greater amenities. For example, they’ll at least get access to a private bathroom on mid-size private planes!
These types of jets are capable of making most domestic flights in the US unlike the very light jets above. Mid-size private planes cruise at around 500 miles per hour and are able to make flights that are around 2,000 to 3,000 miles in length, which covers most of the country.
Heavy Private Planes
Topping the list of private and business jets that we’re looking at today are heavy private planes. These types of aircraft are typically converted into private and/or business planes from one of the commercial jets above (usually light commercial jets). These much larger private planes can handle anywhere from 10 to 20 passengers without trouble but offer much more versatility.
The biggest perk of these large business jets is that companies are able to hold full-scale meetings and conferences right there on the plane. They’re able to fly above bad weather for maximum comfort and big enough to set up conference room(s) and offices, making them perfect for all companies that want to conduct business above the clouds.
Types Of Military Aircraft
Onto the final class of aircraft that we’re going to take a look at today — military aircraft. Even if you aren’t interested in becoming a military pilot and you’d prefer to keep and/or go for your private or commercial pilot’s license(s), military aircraft are undoubtedly some of the most exciting flying machines in the world. They are without a doubt the most technologically advanced (and expensive) aircraft in the world.
We’ll start with the no-brainer. As soon as you think of military aircraft, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Fighter jets of course! The backbone of the military and the type of planes that we all used to dream of flying one day when we were kids. Fighter jets are the cream of the crop when it comes to aircraft in general. When we mentioned above that military aircraft are the most advanced flying machines in the world, nowhere does that ring more true than when we’re talking about fighter jets.
Fighter jets are designed to provide air superiority against enemies foreign and domestic. They utilize the most advanced navigation, weapons, and stealth systems on the planet to attack enemies and defend the country from which they’re from. Fighter jets fly faster and higher than just about any other type of aircraft, and can perform aerial maneuvers that other types of aircraft would fall apart trying to do.
With the ability to carry different payloads such as guns, guided missiles, bombs, rockets, cargo, and more, fighter jets are some of the most fear-inspiring pieces of machinery on the planet. If you’re an enemy that is!
As the name implies, military bombers are designed to typically do one thing — bomb their targets. So as you can probably surmise from that, these planes were designed to carry payloads that consist mainly of varying types of bombs that can do anything from taking out a specific target to leveling an entire small town.
When compared to a fighter jet, bombers will typically be much larger in size and, subsequently, much slower and far less agile in the air. But don’t let their slower speed and lack of extreme maneuverability fool you, bombers are right up there with fighter jets as some of the most technologically advanced aircraft in the world.
Let’s take the B-2 Spirit for example — typically just called the B-2 Bomber. This aircraft is renowned for being one of the stealthiest planes ever created. Due to its sleek design, angled body panels, and perfectly finished paint scheme, the B-2 is nearly impossible to see with radar, much less with the naked eye if it’s dark out. Take a look through some of the most notable bombers in history, and you’ll see some of the most notable planes in history.
The last major category of military aircraft is surveillance planes and drones. As the name of the category suggests, these aircraft are designed specifically for surveillance and reconnaissance. This means that their mission was to fly over enemy locations, gather intel, and get out of the area before being recognized and shot down.
To perform the duties of reconnaissance and surveillance, these types of aircraft need to be able to do three things very well: fly high, fly fast, and capture imagery from great heights. While the two most famous surveillance aircraft in history are likely the U-2 spy plane and the SR-71 Blackbird, these types of aircraft are becoming more and more unmanned these days. This enables the government to perform similar missions without putting pilots at risk.
So as you can assume by now, surveillance planes are also some of the most advanced aircraft in the world in terms of technology. Suffice it to say that military aircraft are levels above all other types of aircraft in the world when it comes to technology!