Difference Between Aircraft and Airplane

Aircraft vs Airplane

Flying in the air like birds has been the dream of mankind since time immemorial. This dream was given wings by Wright brothers at the start of 20th century when they made the first flying machine or in better words, world’s first fixed wing aircraft in 1903. The words aircraft and airplane are used interchangeably for the machine that is capable of flying in the atmosphere. Missiles and rockets also fly in the air, but they are not considered aircrafts because they make use of thrust to gain lift. However, the confusion in the minds of the people is mainly between the words aircraft and airplane that seem to suggest the same mode of transport through air. Let us take a closer look.


Aircraft is a generic term that encompasses a wide range of flying machines and objects. The credit of being the first aircraft goes to kites that are being flown for several thousand years by human beings. Hot air balloons were the next aircrafts developed by human beings while the term aircraft is used today for fixed wing and rotary wing powered flying machines that include airplanes and helicopters. While a helicopter relies on forcing of air down with the help of rotator to get the necessary lift, the lift is generated by the forward speed obtained by an engine.


Airplane or aeroplane is a word strictly reserved for fixed wing aircraft. This type of aircraft moves ahead in the air because of the thrust generated with the help of a jet engine and in some instances a propeller. Thus, only fixed wing aircrafts that are powered classify to be called airplanes. Rotating wing powered aircrafts such as helicopters are not included in this definition of an airplane or an aeroplane. Gliders and paragliders that are unpowered are also not included in the category of airplanes.

What is the difference between Aircraft and Airplane?

• Most of us are guilty of using the terms aircraft and airplane interchangeably though they are not synonymous.

• Aircraft is a more generic word and includes all types of flying machines such as kites, balloons, airships, airplanes and helicopters etc.

• Airplane is a word that is strictly to be used for fixed wing powered aircrafts and even rotator wing powered aircrafts such as helicopters are not included in the term airplane.

• Thus, one can call a Boeing both an airplane and an aircraft while a helicopter is an aircraft but not an airplane.

• Airplane is a word that is mostly used in North America while its British equivalent is aeroplane that is used all over commonwealth.