How to Recognize the Type of Commercial Airplanes – PART#1

Have you ever been sitting in the airport waiting for your flight whilst watching planes of different sizes taxiing, taking – off, and/or landing in front of you? Did that ever make you wonder what type of planes are these? And how specialists differentiate between them?

Today I’ll be giving some simple and easy ways to differentiate between planes, with different angles of view. In this article (part#1) we will talk about Airbus and Boeing’s narrow-body airplanes. Let’s dig in!!

Narrow Body Airplanes

First, let’s know what ‘narrow-body airplane’ means.

A narrow-body aircraft or single-aisle aircraft is an airliner arranged along a single aisle permitting up to 6-abreast seating in a cabin below 4 meters (13 ft) in width. 

At shorter ranges, it is often left to the turbo-props as they can take off and land even on short runways due to their short-take-off ability.

Narrow Body Airplanes (Airbus & Boeing)

In Airbus these are:

  • Airbus A220
  • Airbus A320 Family includes
    • A318
    • A319
    • A320
    • A321

In Boeing these are:

  • Boeing B737 NG family; includes:
    • B737-700
    • B737-800
    • B737-900
  • Boeing 737MAX family; includes:
    • B737MAX8
    • B737MAX9
    • B737MAX 10
  • Boeing 757

Airbus A220

The Airbus A220 is a family of narrow-body, twin-engine, medium-range jet airliners. The airliner was designed by Bombardier Aerospace and originally marketed as the Bombardier CSeries.

You can determine whether this airplane is an Airbus A220 by looking at:

The Nose:

Photo by: Alex Macheras


Photo by: Airbus

Airbus A320 Family

The Airbus A320 family consists of narrow-body airliners. The A320 was introduced in April 1988 by Air France. The first member of the family was followed by the longer A321, the shorter A319, and the even shorter A318.

Usually, the a320 family airplanes look similar, but in different sizes.


The A318 can be easily determined since it’s the smallest.

The A319, A320, and A321 can be noticed by their doors and sizes:


Medium size compared to the A321 and the A319 with two small doors beside each other in the middle of the airplane.


The A321 is the tallest in the family.

Since they are all a family, the A321 looks the same as the A320 and is longer with four separate doors along with the airplane.


It looks similar to the A320 but smaller and with one small door in the middle of the airplane.

The A320 Family airplanes all have the same wingtip:

A320neo Family

The A320neo family airplanes all have the same mentioned specifications above with only one difference, which is the wingtips:

Boeing 737 Family

The Boeing 737 family is the most successful airliner lineage in the world. Orders for the first-generation Boeing 737-100 and 737-200 were placed in 1965 and since then, over 6,000 aircraft were produced. The family consists of three generations of aircraft.

The earliest was the Boeing 737 Original (which included the Boeing 737-100, -200, and -200 Advanced), followed by the Boeing 737 Classic series (including the Boeing 737-300, -400, and -500) and the Boeing 737 Next Generation, or Boeing 737 NG (including the Boeing 737-600, -700, -800 and -900), then the Boeing 737MAX (including the B737MAX7, MAX8, MAX9, and MAX10).

However, today we’ll only talk about the Boeing 737 Next Generation (NG) Family as well as the 737MAX family since they are the most popular nowadays.

Boeing 737 Next Generation (NG)

They all look the same, only the sizes are different here; they have similar noses, wingtips, and tails.




Also an interesting fact about Boeing 737 is that they do not have a landing gear door. The aircraft’s main landing gear wheels are not covered, and they remain exposed even when fully retracted. To know why doesn’t the Boeing 737 have landing gear doors you can head to this article.

Boeing 737MAX Family

The 737 MAX is a fourth-generation Boeing 737, re-engined with CFM LEAP turbofans. It is based on earlier 737 designs, re-engined with more efficient CFM International LEAP-1B engines, aerodynamic changes, which include its distinctive split-tip winglets, and airframe modifications.



And comparing the B737MAX engines with its previous generation the B737 NG:

Boeing 757

The Boeing 757 can be noticed by its nose and its regular wing with no wingtips.



One more thing about the Boeing 757 is that it looks really narrow.

Read now: PART#2 of this article “Airbus’s Wide Airplanes”.

Thank you!

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