Boeing Airliner Spotting Guide


Where it all started ... The Boeing Airplane Company, Seattle, Washington
Where it all started ... The Boeing Airplane Company, Seattle, Washington (Staff Photo)

The Boeing 367-80, the "Dash 80", was the prototype aircraft for the Boeing 707 jet airliner, the Air Force C-135 Stratolifter, and KC-135 Stratotanker. It was rolled out of the assembly line in May of 1954 from Boeing's Renton, Washington plant.

The success of the 707 made Boeing the leader in commercial airliners, and led to a popular 7x7 family of jetliners introduced over the years: the 717, 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, and the 787 Dreamliner. And the tradition continues ... in June of 2017 Boeing announced at the Paris Air Show its newest airliner, the NMA, probably to be called the 797.

One can spot a Boeing jet airliner in nearly any airport in the world. They share similar external characteristics, but identifying one from another can be difficult.

Included on this page is a quick and easy guide to spotting the Boeing jetliners in use today.

Let's get started ...

Boeing 707

The 4-engine Boeing 707

See more Boeing 707 photographs and spotting tips

Continental Airlines Boeing 707 showing the high frequency HF antenna at the leading edge of its tail fin

Boeing 717

Boeing 717 with its twin-engines mounted on the aft of the fuselage

See more Boeing 717 photographs and spotting tips

Boeing 717 of Delta Air Lines

Boeing 727

The 727 is powered by three Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines below the T-tail, one on each side of the rear fuselage with a center engine that connects through an S-duct to an inlet at the base of the fin.

The front of the fuselage features the classic "Boeing pointed nose" and V-shaped windshields on each side of the cockpit.

These features can be seen in the Boeing 727-200 of Delta Air Lines shown below.

See more Boeing 727 photographs and spotting tips

The 727 is powered by three Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines below the T-tail, one on each side of the rear fuselage with a center engine that connects through an S-duct to an inlet at the base of the fin.

Boeing 737

The Boeing 737 has two engines, a main landing gear consisting of two sets of two wheels, and a triangular section at the front of the tail. The nose is "pointed". Originally nicknamed the "Baby Boeing", it has grown over the decades in size and remains a popular airliner worldwide.

See more Boeing 737 photographs and spotting tips

Boeing 737 spotting tips: Boeing 737 has two engines, a main landing gear consisting of two sets of two wheels, and a triangular section at the front of the tail. The nose is "pointed"


Boeing 747: The Original Jumbo Jet

The Boeing 747 with its four engines, one full passenger deck the length of the fuselage, and bulbous front fuselage is an easy spot. Shown below is a Boeing 747-400 of British Airways.

See more Boeing 747 photographs and spotting tips

The Boeing 747 with its four engines, one full passenger deck the length of the fuselage, and bulbous front fuselage is an easy spot. Shown below is a Boeing 747-400 of British Airways.

Boeing 757

In this photograph, the dominant dolphin-shaped nose of the narrow-body, single-aisle Boeing 757 can be seen on this American Airlines airliner. Note also the classic Boeing "V-shaped" windshield windows.

See more Boeing 757 photographs and spotting tips

the dominant dolphin-shaped nose of the 757 can be seen on this American Airlines airliner. Note also the classic Boeing "V-shaped" windshield windows.

Boeing 767

Boeing 767-200, 767-300, and 767-400 wide-body, twin-jet.

See more Boeing 767 photographs and spotting tips

Spotting tips for the Boeing 767-200 (top) and 767-300 (bottom)

Boeing 777

The twin-engine, wide-body Boeing 777-200 (top) and Boeing 777-300 (below). Note that the 777-200 has four cabin doors while the 777-300 has five cabin doors.

Also, the 777 is the only airliner currently in operation that has two, 6-wheel main landing gear configurations. It also features a flat APU exhaust at the rear of the fuselage.

See more Boeing 777 photographs and spotting tips

Spotting tips for the Boeing 777-200 (top) and Boeing 777-300 (below)

Boeing 787

The twin-engine, wide-body Boeing 787-8 (top) and Boeing 787-9 (below) with its distinctive nose design, "sawtooth" engine housing, and no winglets.

See more Boeing 787 photographs and spotting tips

Spotting tips for the Boeing 787-8 (top) and Boeing 787-9 (below)

 

The Boeing 797 / NMA Announced at 2017 Paris Air Show

At the Paris Air Show in June of 2017, Boeing officials offered preliminary plans for the development of a totally new "Middle of the Market" or "MOM" airliner, tentatively scheduled for availability in 2025.

Media outlets are already calling this narrow body, dual-aisle airliner the Boeing 797, which would feature a composite fuselage and wings.

Boeing's current official name for the project is New Midsize Aircraft (NMA). The NMA would have a capacity for 220 to 270 passengers and a range of 5,200 nautical miles, filling the gap between the 737 MAX and the 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing Airline Customer Codes

Boeing uses a series of 2-character Airline Customer Codes to identify the original-build customer for all Boeing 7x7 aircraft, up to and including the Boeing 777. This code system is not being used for 787 and the 737Max airliners.

View a list of Boeing Customer Code Numbers for some popular airlines

Shown below is Boeing 727-223, N874AA in American Airlines livery, on display at the Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington.

This airliner was delivered to American Airlines (Boeing Customer Code 23) in April of 1978. (Staff Photo)

Boeing 727-223, N874AA in American Airlines livery, on display at the Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington, May 2013. This aircraft was delivered to American in April of 1978. It was transferred to the National Airline History Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, in March of 2016.

A Few Notable Boeing and Airbus Differences

The classic Boeing airliner "pointed nose" with V-shaped windows in the windshield
Boeing 737 showing the classic Boeing airliner "pointed nose"

The typical Airbus airliner  with its "rounded nose" design
The "rounded nose" found on many Airbus airliners

Comparison of typical Boeing wide-body tail structure (top) compared with a typical Airbus structure which has more of a straight alignment across the bottom of the tail
Comparison of typical Boeing wide-body tail structure (top) compared with a typical Airbus structure which has more of a straight alignment across the bottom of the tail

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