Is there any difference between Airplane and Aircraft? - Edgevarsity Blog Edgevarsity
Is there any difference between Airplane and Aircraft?

Is there any difference between Airplane and Aircraft?

Is there any difference between Airplane and Aircraft? Can we call every flying body in the air such as kites and balloons as Aeroplane? Are we wrongly using these terminologies? Is there any competent body for defining these terms? Where to locate this information?

 Let us find answers for some of these questions.

 “Aerodyne” means an aircraft whose support in flight is derived dynamically from the reaction on surfaces in motion relative to the air, and includes all aeroplane, helicopters, gyroplanes, gliders, and kites.

 ‘Aircraft’ means any machine that can derive support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air other than reactions of the air against the earth’s surface. It is a device used or intended to be used for flight in the air.

 An aircraft is a vehicle that can 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 the downward thrust from jet engines.

Airplane means an engine-driven fixed-wing aircraft heavier than air, that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against its wings.

Airship means an engine-driven lighter-than-air aircraft that can be steered.

There are some animals that can fly. Volant animals are those animals that has evolved to fly. Patagium is a web of skin running down the sides of the body and connecting the front legs, back legs, and tail. So, we can say that Patagium is the membranous structure that assists an animal in gliding or flight. So, we cannot call all flying bodies aircraft. The better way to do is to introduce a term ‘machine’ or ‘non-living body’ while defining the term Aircraft to exclude Volant animals and birds.

While we explore the definition of aircraft, one should be mindful that, without aircraft documents, the aircraft is just a metal piece and is of no use.

Aircraft Documents means the technical data, type certificate, approvals, manuals, logbooks, inspection cards, modification records, overhaul records, repairs, maintenance and many more. 

Airframe means the fuselage, booms, nacelles, cowlings, fairings, airfoil surfaces (including rotors but excluding propellers and rotating airfoils of engines), and landing gear of an aircraft and their accessories and controls.

One of the ways to learn these definitions is to visit the Directorate General of Civil Aviation DGCA-India portal. (Link provided below)

In the Regulations and Guidance section, one can download the required documents. The documents are easy to navigate, simple to understand and have the required definitions.

Students who aspire to join the aviation industry can readthrough.  It is recommended to read all the documents associated under the ‘Rules’ section and then proceed to ‘Civil Aviation Requirements’ subsection under the ‘Requirements and Guidance’ section.

From the below DGCA weblink, students are expected to learn that India being a signatory to the Chicago Convention is obliged to comply with international standards and procedures established through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

In addition, Aircraft Act 1934 empowers the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, to make rules for carrying out the Conventions relating to International Civil Aviation including any Annex thereto relating to international standards and recommended practices as amended from time to time.

Annex 7 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation provides international standards and definitions for airplane, aircraft, airship, balloon etc and one can find them harmonized in DGCA India regulations as well.

Below chart would be handy to better understand that Kite is a non-power driven heavier than air aircraft, while Aeroplane is power-driven. Aeroplane is a small segment which aircraft encompass, and aircraft include balloons, kites and helicopters.

We are now in the era of Drones and unmanned aerial vehicles. How are they classified? To understand this, one must read the Government of India Gazette Notification dated 12th March 2021. (Link is provided below)

Drone is an unmanned aircraft and Drone port is a defined area on land or water including any buildings, installations, and equipment which is intended to be used either wholly or in part for the arrival, departure, surface movement and associated maintenance or commercial activities of unmanned aircraft.

Drone Swarm means a fleet of unmanned aircraft either in communication with one another or with remote control and deployed together to accomplish a common objective, controlled either autonomously or by a remote control.,%202021.pdf

One can find similar definitions in the EASA portal. (Link provided below).

As a student, one should not restrict himself to his National agency. It is recommended to explore other regulatory agency portals as there is huge information enriched with knowledge and education.

As an example, if one is interested in knowing about Performance Based Navigation, Australian Government Civil Aviation in its eLearning portal has a module on Performance Based Navigation Regulations. (Link below)

by Sumanth Eswar

Ex Assistant Manager-Technical Services, Jet Airways

14 years of industry experience in various sections under Engineering and Maintenance department such as Engineering Planning, Technical Services Engineering including Structures, Cabin Maintenance, Airframe and Systems, Base Maintenance, Powerplant, Reliability, Aircraft Weighing, Rotable Management. Years of Safety Office experience and was a surveyor for Aircraft Insurance