11 Different Types of Planes All Enthusiasts Should Know About

If you are just getting into planes, you may not be aware of all the different types of planes there are out there. Perhaps you know there are personal planes, commercial planes, and military planes, but did you know how many subcategories there are?

Take a glance at these 11 different types of planes to get an idea of what there is out there in the plane world to get excited about.

11 Different Types of Planes

1. Single-Engine Piston Planes


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Single-engine piston planes are given their name because they are powered by a single-piston engine. These are often used by private pilots and are highly desirable due to their lower costs and their reliability.

Some of them can hold up to four people and go up to 300 nautical miles before needing a refill. They have been around since about the 1920s and are still produced in large numbers because of their desirability.

Some of the most popular ones are the SR20 and SR22 by Cirrus, though the Cessna 172 and Beechcraft Bonanza are also well-known planes.

It is thought that these planes have made personal planes and small tour planes much more popular and contributed to the growing aviation industry outside of military and commercial use. They are used not only for personal use but sightseeing and flight training.

2. Multi-Engine Piston Planes

Multi Engine Piston

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Another type of personal plane is the multi-engine piston plane. They are similar to the single-engine, but tend to be a bit bigger and can travel longer. They can be used by someone with a pilot’s license for personal use, but tend to be used more by smaller businesses.

As the name suggests, they are also composed of more than one engine piston to power the plane. This means they can sometimes go faster, and longer than single-engine piston planes, and are a bit bigger.

They were very popular in the 1970s and 1980s, but the high cost of gas has made it much harder for people to use these simply for fun. Now, they are more used for small cargo trips and business or private travel. They have more space, bigger windows, and more sophisticated systems than single-engine piston planes.

Some of the faster multi-engine piston planes include the Piper PA-44 Seminole, the Beechcraft Baron G58, and the Tecnam P2012 Traveller.

3. Cargo Planes


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Cargo planes are planes that are used to transport materials and mail over large distances instead of people. They are often used for transporting mail and packages, as well as large items.

There are cargo planes called Super Transporters that are designed to handle oversized and heavier items. These planes are incredibly important as they can provide goods to areas in need, carry over construction materials and machinery, and even military equipment much quicker than a ship could.

Cargo planes are similar to passenger planes, with some differences. They are generally larger and have big cargo doors, containers, and sturdy flooring that make it easier to roll in items and containers. They also, of course, have no seating.

Some examples of cargo planes are the Boeing 747-400F and the Airbus A330-200F which can hold up to 124 tons.

4. Commercial Airliners


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Commercial airliners are planes designed to carry passengers from one area to another. They often go long distances, from major cities to other major cities. Many of them even travel internationally from one country to another.

Because they handle more common flight destinations, they usually handle a larger amount of people. Some of the common commercial airliners like the Boeing 747, Airbus A380, and Airbus A320 can hold between 240 to 853 passengers.

They also have different sections many times, with options for business class, first class, and economy. There are minor differences between them such as the size, width, and whether there is a second floor or not, but they have the same general body shape with a few exceptions.

These are the planes that most people are used to seeing or getting up close to.

5. Turboprop Planes


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A turboprop plane is a plane powered by a turbine engine in the front. The turbine engine moves a propeller at the nose of the plane and creates thrust. They have some benefits over piston engines.

For example, they tend to have high efficiency and are often considered more reliable. In general, they can also go higher in the air than pistons. Often, turboprop planes are more expensive initially and in terms of repairs as well.

Their major downside is their gearbox. If something goes wrong with the gearbox, such as the speeds going off, they aren’t lubed enough, or they just break, then there will be a critical failure. Now, there are multiple warnings to help pilots stop flying before the engine fails, but before it could be a serious problem if the gearbox just broke.

Turboprop planes also don’t do well as they get smaller. Unlike piston planes which get more efficient as they get smaller, turboprop planes are more efficient the bigger they are.

Some examples of turboprop planes frequently used are the Pilatus PC-12, the Cessna Caravan, and the Beechcraft King Air.

6. Electric Planes


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As the name suggests, electric planes run on electricity instead of fossil fuels. This means that instead of using jet fuels or gasoline, they have a motor and battery to power them. They get power by being plugged into a grid, or by a generator stashed aboard the plane.

Some of the planes have shown pretty good promise, as they can fly up to 500 miles before being recharged. That makes them better than many private planes and shows that they have the potential to be used for shorter passenger trips.

However, they take a long time to charge, compared to quickly refilling fuel. This means they cannot be used for multiple trips back-to-back as we see with many commercial planes currently.

They are being used at the moment for small, more personal trips and regional air travel. They can also be a good option for pilot training.

In addition to benefiting the environment, they are quieter and cheaper.

Some examples of hybrid and electric planes are the Cessna SkyCourior, the Airbus EADS E-Thrust, and the Airbus E-Fan.

7. Gyroplanes


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Gyroplanes tend to look more like helicopters up front. They have other names like gyrocopter or autogyro because of this similarity. Though it has a rotating blade like a helicopter, they tend to be controlled and fly more like a plane, so many people still place them in the category of an airplane despite their appearance.

One of the biggest reasons they are often considered planes is that they have thrust provided to them by an engine. While the rotating blade provides lift like a helicopter, it cannot also provide thrust.

They are a relatively new type of plane to become popular, just over a decade old. There were designs for them and similar planes as far back as the 1920s, but they often had high failures due to their blades being created incorrectly. It took 5 iterations before the blades were able to work effectively.

However, they are pretty popular as private planes. One of the biggest reasons is safety. Where other planes have the potential, however minimal, to stall, gyroplanes don’t do this.

Even if the engine fails, the way the plane is designed will make it operate like a parachute, creating a slow and dampened landing. This will cause some injury to the person and likely damage the vehicle, but it is far less deadly than other engine failures.

They are also pretty easy to fly and can be maneuvered in a variety of ways. While they cannot hover like a plane, they can go as slow as 35 mph. On windier days, this means you can mimic hovering by flying into the wind.

Some examples of gyroplanes are the M-16 Gyrocopter and the Magni M22.

8. Canard Planes


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At a quick glance, some canard planes are reminiscent of some military fighter planes. However, they can have quite a few different shapes.

They generally have small wings in front of the main wings, and they are up fairly high on the plane instead of being at the back.

Many people think they are better than traditional planes. They are hard to crash. In the event they do stall, the nose will tip down first, the aircraft would increase speed, and the plane would recover.

They also can get to faster speeds and be more efficient thanks to the entire plane’s ability to generate lift. They can handle weight shifts and changes better as long as the plane isn’t overloaded and the weight is mostly forward of the wings.

Despite their benefits, they aren’t widely used as they have to be long and skinny, which reduces their effectiveness as they often struggle with aerodynamic forces.

Some examples of planes with a canard design are the Beech Starship, the Rutan Voyager, and the Piaggio P. 180 Avanti.

9. Warbirds


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Warbirds are older planes. They used to be used in the military, but as advancements are made, certain versions are replaced. Instead of destroying the planes, they are kept around.

The military will often refurbish the planes or hollow them out to put on display. They use this to educate the public, not only about the history of war and what kinds of equipment were used but how technology has advanced over time.

Sometimes, the planes are kept around and actively used. These can be for reenactments, research, or training.

Most of the time, they are kept by the military, but sometimes they are sold to collectors and enthusiasts. They are often highly sought after due to their historical importance. Often, the ones that were involved in actual wars are more desirable, but they are all in demand.

Some examples of popular warbirds include the P-51 Mustang and the B-17 Flying Fortress.

10. Military Planes


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Military planes are a wide group of planes. Generally, they are for any use as required by the military and they have ones made for surveillance, fighting, and carrying of goods. Some can fly without a pilot, while others depend on pilots for tight navigation.

These planes are often highly advanced compared to other planes and have unique shapes to allow for better ability for maneuvering and high speeds.

Some military planes include the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the C-17 Globemaster III, the M-345 HET, and the MQ-9 Reaper. All have different purposes and capabilities but are essential for security and military tactics.

11. Regional Airliners


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A regional airliner is a lot like a commercial airliner. The only difference is that they are often used for shorter commutes and in less busy towns. Because there aren’t usually as many people that book these planes at once, they are often smaller, holding under 200 passengers at a time.

Two common regional airliners are the Bombardier CRJ700 and the Embraer E190 which hold 76 and 114 passengers, respectively. These kinds of planes are important because they allow people to get to more rural and isolated areas that have smaller runways, or where it wouldn’t be cost-effective to use a larger commercial plane.

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