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Aircraft vs. Airplane — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 20, 2023
An aircraft is any vehicle capable of flight, while an airplane is a specific type of aircraft with wings and one or more engines.

Difference Between Aircraft and Airplane

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Key Differences

Both aircraft and airplane pertain to modes of transportation that fly. An aircraft represents any vehicle capable of atmospheric flight, covering a vast range of flying machines. On the contrary, an airplane specifically refers to a powered flying vehicle with fixed wings.
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Sep 20, 2023
Given the broad scope of the term aircraft, it encompasses helicopters, gliders, drones, and even balloons. An airplane, however, remains constrained to designs that use engines to propel themselves forward and wings to generate lift.
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Sep 20, 2023
Historically, the emergence of aircraft predates the invention of airplanes. Early forms of aircraft, like hot air balloons, showed the potential of aerial travel. Only later did the airplane, with its distinctive design of wings and propulsion, revolutionize air travel.
Fiza Rafique
Sep 20, 2023
When discussing the aviation industry, aircraft serves as a comprehensive term, inclusive of all air vehicles used for transportation, military, or recreational purposes. In contrast, airplane typically pertains to commercial passenger and cargo planes.
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Sep 20, 2023
In daily language, people often use the term airplane when referring to the common commercial jets they travel in. Aircraft, while also used commonly, can imply a broader array of airborne vehicles, from small private planes to massive military drones.
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Sep 20, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Any vehicle capable of flight.
A powered flying vehicle with fixed wings.
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Sep 20, 2023

Includes

Helicopters, gliders, drones, balloons, airplanes.
Specifically fixed-wing aircrafts.
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Sep 20, 2023

Engines

May or may not have engines.
Typically has one or more engines.
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Sep 20, 2023

Historical Context

Represents all flying vehicles, including early innovations.
A later, specific innovation in aircraft design.
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Sep 20, 2023

Common Usage

Broader term in aviation industry.
Refers commonly to commercial passenger planes.
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Sep 20, 2023
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Compare with Definitions

Aircraft

Encompasses both manned and unmanned vehicles.
Drones are unmanned aircraft used for various purposes.
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Sep 20, 2023

Airplane

A powered flying vehicle with fixed wings.
The airplane took off on time despite the weather.
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Sep 20, 2023

Aircraft

A broad term covering all airborne transportation modes.
The development of new aircraft technologies has changed aviation.
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Sep 20, 2023

Airplane

A specific type of aircraft designed for forward motion.
The invention of the airplane revolutionized long-distance travel.
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Sep 20, 2023

Aircraft

Any vehicle capable of atmospheric flight.
The museum displayed various types of aircraft from different eras.
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Sep 20, 2023

Airplane

Requires engines for propulsion.
The airplane's engines roared as it accelerated on the runway.
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Sep 20, 2023

Aircraft

A machine designed for air travel that has a flight system.
The military showcased its latest aircraft at the air show.
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Sep 20, 2023

Airplane

Commonly used for commercial passenger travel.
She took an airplane to visit her family overseas.
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Sep 20, 2023

Aircraft

Can refer to both commercial and military flying machines.
The aircraft manufacturers received a huge order from the airline.
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Sep 20, 2023

Airplane

Typically has a cockpit for pilots.
The pilot navigated the airplane through turbulent skies.
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Sep 20, 2023

Aircraft

An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly by gaining support from the air. It counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.
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Feb 10, 2022

Airplane

An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft that is propelled forward by thrust from a jet engine, propeller, or rocket engine. Airplanes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and wing configurations.
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Feb 10, 2022

Aircraft

An aeroplane, helicopter, or other machine capable of flight.
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Feb 10, 2022

Airplane

A powered flying vehicle with fixed wings and a weight greater than that of the air it displaces; an aeroplane.
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Feb 10, 2022

Aircraft

A machine or device, such as an airplane, helicopter, glider, dirigible, or drone, capable of atmospheric flight.
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Feb 10, 2022

Airplane

Any of various winged vehicles capable of flight, generally heavier than air and driven by jet engines or propellers.
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Feb 10, 2022

Aircraft

A vehicle capable of atmospheric flight due to interaction with the air, such as buoyancy or lift
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Feb 10, 2022

Airplane

A powered heavier-than-air aircraft with fixed wings.
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Feb 10, 2022

Aircraft

Any vehicle, such as an airplane, helicopter, balloon, etc., for floating in, or flying through, the air.
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Feb 10, 2022

Airplane

(intransitive) To fly in an aeroplane.
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Feb 10, 2022

Aircraft

A vehicle that can fly
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Feb 10, 2022

Airplane

(transitive) To transport by aeroplane.
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Feb 10, 2022

Airplane

A heavier-than-air aircraft. Same as aeroplane{2}.
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Feb 10, 2022

Airplane

An aircraft that has a fixed wing and is powered by propellers or jets;
The flight was delayed due to trouble with the airplane
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Feb 10, 2022

Common Curiosities

Which came first, aircraft or airplane?

Aircraft came first, with innovations like balloons preceding airplanes.
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Sep 20, 2023

Can a helicopter be termed an airplane?

No, a helicopter is an aircraft but not an airplane.
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Sep 20, 2023

Is a drone an airplane?

No, a drone is an aircraft but not categorized as an airplane.
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Sep 20, 2023

How does an aircraft differ from an airplane?

An aircraft encompasses any flying vehicle, while an airplane is specifically a powered vehicle with fixed wings.
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Sep 20, 2023

Can the term aircraft refer to space vehicles?

Typically, aircraft refers to vehicles in Earth's atmosphere, while spacecraft are for space travel.
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Sep 20, 2023

Do all aircraft have engines?

No, not all aircraft have engines, e.g., gliders. However, airplanes do have engines.
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Sep 20, 2023

Do all airplanes have pilots?

Most airplanes have pilots, but there are unmanned airplanes or drones.
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Sep 20, 2023

Are balloons and blimps considered airplanes?

No, they are types of aircraft but not airplanes.
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Sep 20, 2023

Which is more specific in terminology, aircraft or airplane?

Airplane is more specific, referring to a subset of aircraft.
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Sep 20, 2023

Can the term airplane include military jets?

Yes, military jets are a type of airplane, which in turn is a type of aircraft.
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Sep 20, 2023

What's the primary purpose of an airplane's wings?

An airplane's wings provide lift, essential for flight.
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Sep 20, 2023

Can an aircraft function without wings?

Yes, some aircraft, like helicopters, don't have fixed wings like airplanes.
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Sep 20, 2023

Is every airplane also an aircraft?

Yes, every airplane is an aircraft, but not every aircraft is an airplane.
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Sep 20, 2023

How do engines affect an airplane's design?

Engines provide propulsion, essential for an airplane's forward motion and lift.
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Sep 20, 2023

Do all airplanes look similar?

No, airplanes can vary greatly in design, size, and purpose.
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Sep 20, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content editor at AskDifference.com, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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