Aircraft Vs Airplane: What Is the Difference?

Aircraft Vs Airplane
Photo by Damian Hutter

Since the beginning of time, humans have aspired to have the ability to soar through the air like birds.


The Wright brothers finally realized this ambition at the turn of the 20th century when they constructed the first flying machine, or more accurately, the world’s first fixed-wing aircraft, in 1903.

 The machine capable of flight in the air is referred to as an aircraft or airplane, and both of these terms are used interchangeably.

Other things can fly through the air, such as missiles and rockets, but they are not called aircraft because they require thrust to get a lift.

However, most people’s confusion stems from the fact that the words “aircraft” and “airplane” appear to refer to the same kind of transportation that is accomplished through the use of the air.

So aircraft vs. airplane, what is the difference? Well, Let’s take a more in-depth look, shall we?

What is an Aircraft?

The phrase “aircraft” refers to a wide variety of flying machines and other flying objects, and it is a general term.

Kites, which humans have flown for thousands of years, can claim the title of “world’s first airplane.

The next human-made aircraft to be invented were hot air balloons, while the term “aircraft” is now used to refer to powered flying machines with either fixed or rotary wings, such as airplanes and helicopters.

Although a helicopter must rely on the rotor to push air downward to get the necessary lift, the lift is produced by the engine’s forward speed. 

What is Airplane?

The term “airplane” (sometimes spelled “airplane”) should only be used to refer to fixed-wing aircraft.

This category of aircraft travels forward to kin the air thanks to the thrust produced by a jet engine and, in some instances, a propeller.

Therefore, “airplane” can only refer to a powered aircraft with a fixed-wing configuration. 

According to this definition, helicopters and other powered aircraft with rotating wings are not considered “airplanes” or “airplanes.

The category of airplanes does not include gliders, paragliders, or any aircraft that do not have a propulsion system.

Now that we know the meaning of the two terms, aircraft vs airplane, What’s the difference?

Most of us are guilty of using the phrases aircraft and airplane interchangeably, even though these words do not mean the same thing.

  • Aircraft is a more general term that refers to various forms of flying devices, including but not limited to kites, balloons, airships, aircraft, and helicopters, amongst others.
  • The word “airplane” should only ever be used to refer to powered aircraft with fixed wings; even rotor-winged aircraft with propulsion systems, such as helicopters, are not included in the definition of “airplane.”
  • As a result, a Boeing can be referred to as both an airplane and an aircraft, whereas a helicopter is considered an aircraft but not an airplane.
  • The word “airplane” is more prevalent in North America, although the British term “airplane” is used throughout the Commonwealth. The airplane is primarily a North American term.

What Are the Types of Aircraft?

Generally speaking, two different categories can be applied to airplanes. The first type of aircraft is an aerostat, while the second type is an aerodyne, a heavier-than-air aircraft.

Aerostats, sometimes known as “Lighter Than Air” models: Aerostats, often known as lighter-than-air aircraft, have a significantly reduced overall weight.

Is a Drone an Aircraft?

 The drone is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard.

The term drone can refer to any uncrewed aircraft, but it almost exclusively refers to remotely controlled uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) in everyday use.

These aircraft are sometimes also called uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), remotely piloted air systems (RPAS) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).


Many people still confuse themselves with aircraft and airplane and that’s why the debate aircraft vs airplane will always continue.

But with the points presented above we can say conclusively that aircraft is the “mother” of airplane which is a big difference. 

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