Jet Airliner Spotting Guide


 

Spotting Guides to help differentiate airliners with similar designsSpotting Guides to help differentiate airliners with similar designs

With the wide variety of jet airliners serving the worldwide travel market today, identification of individual manufacturers and aircraft can be a bit tricky.

Included on this page is a quick and easy guide to spotting the common jet airliners of the day. We include airliners from Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and Bombardier.

We don't deal with turboprops, business jets or military aircraft on this site. And while we recognize the existence and important of early jetliners such as the 707, DC-8 and Convair 880, they are not the main focus on this site. But you can read about spotting older, vintage jet airliners and view their photographs.

Let's get started ...

Does It Have Four Engines?

If the airliner has two engines under each wing, for a total of four, it must be a Boeing 747, Airbus A340 or Airbus A380. If it is a smaller, regional type jet, it is probably a BAe 146/Avro RJ.

Spotting guide: 4-engine jet airliners
Spotting Guide for 4-engine Jet Airliners

It Looks Like a Three Engine "Tri-Jet"

If the airliner has three engines, one in the tail, and one under each wing or two on the aft fuselage, it is an older aircraft, probably a:

Boeing 727

Douglas DC-10

McDonnell-Douglas MD-11

Lockheed L-1011 Tristar

Few of these are in service today, and many of the ones that remain active are in the air cargo marketplace.

Spotting guide: 3-engine jet airliners
Spotting Guide for 3-engine Jet Airliners

 

This Airliner Only Has Two Engines ... What Is It?

Now for the hard part! Many jet airliners in service today have two engines, one under each wing.

Most active airliners manufactured by Boeing and Airbus have this configuration.

Spotting guide: 2-engine jet airliners
Spotting Guide for 2-engine Jet Airliners

 

Twin-engine narrow-body

Boeing continues to manufacture the highly successful twin-engine, narrow-body 737 series, while Airbus produces large numbers of its A320 family.

The Boeing 757 twin-engine is out of production but still in active usage.

Spotting guide: Narrow-body with engines under wings

If the airliner has two engines, one on each side of the rear fuselage, then it is probably a Boeing 717, a MD-80 variant or possibly a regional jetliner from Bombardier or Embraer.

Spotting guide: Narrow-body with engines on fuselage

Twin-engine wide-body

Several aircraft reside in the "twin-engine, wide-body" category, including:

Spotting guide: 2-engine wide-body jet airliners

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