How to know your Airbus from Boeing August 12, 2010Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Travel.
Tags: A300, A310, A318, A319, A320, A321, A330, A340, A350, A380, Airbus, Aviation, B737, B747, B747-8 Intercontinental, B757, B767, B777, B787, Boeing, Dreamliner, Planespotting
Many of us admire airplanes for the graceful, elegant and sleek flying machines that they are.
How many of you have wondered about the type or kind of the aircraft that you are traveling in or flying over you in the sky? Is it a Boeing or an Airbus? Is it an A330 or a B777?
Here’s a simple aircraft identification guide for those with a budding interest in aviation. I’ll try to make this post as visual as possible since plane-spotting works best by observing as many different types of aircraft as possible and drawing your own inferences. Now sit back, relax and enjoy this journey!
How to know your plane?
First and the easy way out, look for the name of the aircraft type to be written on the aircraft fuselage. Most airlines still retain it. This should be easy if you are closer to the aircraft parked on the apron.
Now for the second part. For practical purposes, we will focus only on the big 2 giants of aviation – Airbus and Boeing, and close the gates on Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, Antonov, Ilyushin, Bombardier, Embraer, Sukhoi etc.
We will also only consider airplanes that are currently flying around the world in large numbers, which means no clearance for 707 or 727 to take off.
A quick 101 on the two giants:
Boeing is American and the largest global aircraft manufacturer by revenue, orders and deliveries. Airbus is European and a subsidiary of EADS, and manufactures half of the world’s jetliners.
Boeing aircraft start with the #7 series. You have 737, 747, 757, 767, 777 and the new 787 Dreamliner along with the 747-8 Intercontinental currently under development.
Airbus aircraft start with the #3 series. So you have A300, A310, A318, A319, A320, A321, A330, A340, A380 and the A350 currently under development.
Airbus or Boeing – A-Team vs. B-Team
Airbus nose – Bulbous, curved.
Check out the noses. Boeing will have more pointed noses while Airbus will have bulbous, curved noses.
Check out the cockpit windows. Airbus cockpit side windows run in a straight line along the bottom, whereas most Boeing side windows run in a ‘V’ shape along the bottom. Also Airbus aircraft cockpit side windows look like one of their corners have been ‘cut’.
Airbus A330 APU area – circular.
Have a look at the APU Exhaust unit beneath the tail. Both Airbuses and Boeings have a circular outlet with the only exception with B777 having a sawed off unit.
All Airbus wide-bodies apart from the 380 have a fuselage top that continues straight all the way to the APU exhaust. Boeings have a taper downwards. The end of Boeings are ‘tapered’ and slope on the top and bottom, whereas on Airbus the top is straight and the bottom is very sloped.
Narrow-body or Wide-body
The shorter and smaller planes are called narrow-bodies, as they have a single aisle.
Airbus: A318, A319, A320 and A321.
Boeing: B737 and B757.
The longer and larger planes are also called wide-bodies, as they have twin aisles.
Airbus: A300, A310, A330, A340, A380 and A350.
Boeing: B747, B757, B767, B777, B787 Dreamliner and B747-8 Intercontinental.
2 engines or 4 engines
Only A340s, A380s and B747s have four engines. All other aircraft have twin engines.
The big ones – B747 or A340 or A380
If it has two decks of windows and four engines, it is an A380.
If it has one and half decks and four engines, it is a B747.
If has a single deck, longer fuselage and four engines, it is an A340.
The intermediates – B777 or A330
Check out the 3 pairs of wheels on each main landing gear of the above B777.
A B777 will never have a winglet.
The B777 has 14 wheels in a 6 6 2 configuration. The ever-helpful Sandy Ward from Future of Flight has this great tip to identify Boeing 777s – 3 sevens have 3 wheels.
Ed Kaplanian from Future of Flight has more tips to differentiate between A330s and B777s.
The A330 with 2 pairs of wheels on each main landing gear.
Wheels: The main landing gear on an A330 has two sets of wheels, what they call in the industry (a two wheel truck). The main landing gear on a B777 has three sets of wheels, what they call in the industry (a three wheel truck).
B777 with sawed-off APU.
A330 with conical APU.
Tail end: The APU (auxiliary power unit) exhaust outlet is mounted in the middle of the tail cone on an A330. The APU (auxiliary power unit) exhaust outlet is mounted on the left side of the tail cone on the B777.
Wing tips: The A330 wing incorporates small wing tips on the wings. The B777 wing does not have wing tips.
The small birds – A320s vs. B737s
In terms of capacity, this how the Airbus airplanes in the A320 family compete with the Boeing 737 family.
A318 vs. B737-600
A319 vs. B737-700
A320 vs. B737-800
A321 vs. B737-900
The B737-700 is on the left and the A320 is on the right. Note how the tail fin of the B737 rises from the main body at a sharp angle.
The A320 is at top and the B737 is at the bottom. The 320 fuselage is rounded at the front, pointed at the back. The 737 fuselage is pointed at the front, rounded at the back.
Can you guess who is A320 and B737 in the above pic?
In each case, the Boeing version is lighter and seats more people. The Airbus version sits higher off the ground compared to Boeing. The A320s have fly-by-wire technology, which means the computer plays a larger role in flying the plane while pilot has the final say in flying a Boeing 737. A320s are longer compared to B737s but have lesser range.
Look at the tail fin to know your 737 from A320. If the tail fin rises from the main body at a sharp angle, it is a B737.
If it is larger, has rounder engines and a longer fuselage, it is an A320.
If it has a flatter engine at the base, it is a B737.
Know your B737s
The B737s come in 9 versions: -100, -200, -300, -400, -500, -600, -700, -800, and –900ER. The –300, -400 and -500 fall into the category of Classics while the last 4 are New Generation Boeings. The –300s are the shortest while the –900ER is the longest. The only exception to the rule is –400, which is longer than the –300, -600 and –700 versions.
B737-100 – classic.
B737-200 – classic.
B737-300 – classic.
B737-400 – classic.
B737-500 – classic.
B737-600 – new generation.
B737-700 – new generation.
B737-800 – new generation.
B737-900 – new generation.
The –100 and –200 have cigar shaped nacelles. The –100s are out of service.
If the front of the engine nacelle is flattened and has an almost triangular shape, it is a Classic.
If the front of the engine nacelle is almost round-shaped, it is a New Generation 737.
If you can look at the APU exhaust at the tail and spot 2 holes, it is an NG. If it has a single hole, it is a Classic.
Also, all Classics have eyebrow windows.
If it is a stubby looking Classic, it is a 500. If it is a stubby looking NG, it is a 600.
If it looks “normally” proportioned and it is a Classic, it is a 300. If it looks normally proportioned and it is an NG, it is a 700.
If it looks long and it is a Classic, it is a 400. If it looks long and it is an NG, it is an 800.
If it looks really long and has 3 doors on each side, it is a 900.
If you are checking out a B737 belonging to Oman Air, flydubai, Jet Airways or Air India Express it will be a –700 or –800.
Know your B747s
B747s come in five versions – 100, -SP, -200, -300, and -400. All versions are 70.6m long except the B747SP from the -100 family which is around 15m shorter. There are a few sub-variants but we will primarily focus on the big 5.
The B747-100 & -200 have ten windows on each side of the upper deck. Some of the first -100s off the production line have only 3 windows on each side of the upper deck.
The B747-200 has ten windows on each side of the upper deck.
The B747-300 has an extended upper flight deck compared to the -200 and -100. It also has a door on the upper deck between windows.
Only the B747-400 has wingtip extensions or winglets.
The B747-SP fuselage is shorter than all other B747 variants but compensates for it with a taller tail.
Know your B757s
B757s come in two versions – 200 and the longer –300. The drooping dolphin shaped nose and thin, swept back wings of this aircraft type is a distinct giveaway.
The –200 comes with 3 doors on each side with a smaller emergency exit window.
The –300 comes with 4 doors and 2 over-the-wing emergency exit windows on each side.
Know your B767s
The B767 comes in 3 variants – 200, –300 and –400 with respective Extended Range versions. The –200 is the shortest while –400 is the longest.
What are the key differences between a B757 and a B767?
The Boeing 767 wingspan is 48 metres, 10 metres greater than the B757. The position of the nose wheel relative to the flight deck is much further forward on the 767 than on the 757.
Also, the main landing gear is a long way back on the B767.
Know your B777s
The easiest way to identify a B777 is to look at its tail area for a blade-shaped tail cone. Also check out the main landing gear. If you spot 6 wheels on each landing gear, it is a 777. There are 4 passenger versions of the 777: B777-200, B777-200 ER (Extended Range), B777-200LR (Longer Range), B777-300 and B777-300ER (Extended Range). These variants are distinguished on the basis of their fuselage length and nautical range. The –300s are longer than –200s by over 10m.
B777-200 – 63.7m
B777-200ER – 63.7m
B777-200LR – 63.7m – the world’s longest-range commercial airliner. Boeing named this aircraft the Worldliner, highlighting its ability to connect almost any two airports in the world.
B777-300 – 73.9m
B777-300ER – 73.9m
Know your A300s
The A300 B2
The A300 B4
The A300 -600
The A300 comes in 4 main variants – the B1, B2, B4 and the -600. The A300-600 is a later version of the earlier A300B4 and features a wingtip that is shaped like a triangle above and below the end of each wing.
The A300 vs. A330
The basic fuselage design of the A330 is derived from the A300. So how do you differentiate between the two aircrafts when they are parked next to each other? The A330 comes with winglets and is longer than the A300. (A winglet is a wingtip extension that extends UPWARD from the end of the wing). The A300 may or may not have a wingtip. Also, the A330 has a larger wingspan (the distance in a straight line from one wingtip to other).
The A310 is basically a baby A300. It comes in two main variants: -200 and -300. It has a shorter fuselage, a new, higher aspect ratio wing, smaller tail when compared to the A300. Also, the A310 has only two doors on each side, whereas the A300s have 3 doors on each side.
Know your A320s
The A320 family of jets includes the A318-100, A319-100, A320-200 and the A321-200.
In terms of fuselage length, the A318 is the shortest (aka Baby Bus) and the A321 is the longest.
A318-100 – 31.44m
A319-100 – 33.84m
A320-200 – 37.57m
A321-200 – 44.51m
The A320 will usually have two emergency window exits over the wings whereas the A318 and A319 have only one emergency window exit over the wing. The A321 will have four exit doors on each side.
Know your A330s
The A330 comes in 2 passenger versions – the A330-200 and A330-300. The –300 version is longer than the –200 version but has a shorter tail height. The –300 carries more passengers but has a shorter range. Also, note the 4 wheels on each main landing gear and the smoother curvature of the tail to distinguish it from a B777.
A330-200 – 58.8m
A330-300 – 63.6m
Know your A340s
If it is single deck and has got 4 engines, you bet it is the A340. The A340 comes in 4 passenger versions – the A340-200, A340-300, A340-500 and A340-600.
The fuselage lengths should help you distinguish between them. The A340-600 is the second longest airplane in the world after the B747-8 Intercontinental, currently under development. Both the –500 and –600 come in High Gross Weight (HGW) Versions, with enhanced range, fuel capacity, weight amongst other features.
A340-200 – 59.39m
A340-300 – 63.60m
A340-500 – 67.90m
A340-600 – 75.30m
We will discuss more about the B787 Dreamliner, B747-8 Intercontinental, Airbus A350 (all currently under different stages of development and not yet flying commercially) along with the A380 in another post.
Now that you are done reading this post, you are officially on your way to be an aviation geek. Please feel free to let me know your suggestions and feedback as well as sharing it with the world.
Copyright/credits: Many thanks to Airliners.Net & its contributors whose images I have used in this post. They are the finest source of aviation images on the Net today.
I recommend you read through the comments as more readers suggest interesting ways to identify between Airbus & Boeing jets.
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