The two engine underwing model is the most common type of commercial aircraft in the sky today. There are two types: single-aisle, narrow body (Boeing 737, 757, Airbus A320, and Embraer E170) and two-aisle widebody (Boeing 767, 777, 787, Airbus A300, and A330). There are photo examples of each type at the bottom of this page. Place your mouse over the highlighted text to see that area on the image to the right.
- The 737 is one of the most popular jets ever sold. The -100 and -200 series were in production from 1968 to 1988, followed by the -300 and -500 series (all referred to as the 737 classic) from 1984 to 1999, and the “next generation” -700 through -900 series from 1998 to the present. More than 11,000 737s have been sold in the last 46 years. Most major airlines in America fly the 737 except Jetblue.
- Boeing introduced the 757 and 767 in 1982. Production of the 757 ended in 2004 and the 767 is still being built as a freighter and another version as a military refueling tanker. The largest operator of the 757 and 767 is Delta Airlines.
- The Boeing 777 went into production in 1995 and in America only United, American, and Delta fly them. This widebody jet is primarily used for long-haul routes.
- Boeing’s new 787 went into service in 2011. Eventually it will be in use by American, United, and Delta on long-haul international routes.
- The A300 was the first aircraft produced by Airbus and was built from 1974 to 2007. The only operators remaining in the U.S. are FedEx and UPS which use the freighter version. Out of the total of 823 built, 380 remain in service worldwide including the 145 operated by FedEx and UPS.
- Airbus introduced the narrowbody A320 family in 1988. The A318/319/320/and 321 versions are similar but have different passenger capacity and range. They are built in Europe. The largest operator of the A320 in the world is US Airways; United, Delta, and Jetblue also fly these jets in large numbers.
- The widebody A330 was introduced in 1998 by Airbus. In the U.S., only US Airways and Delta fly this jet for long range flights.
- The Embraer 170/175/and 190 models entered service in 2004 and are built in Brazil. They are basically large regional jets, seating between 70 and 100 passengers. These planes are flown under most of the regional airline brands, including Delta Connection, US Airways Express, and United Express as well as Jetblue.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The Boeing 737 compares to the Airbus A320. All 737 models have an angle
at the top where the tail meets the fuselage, while the Airbus is straight.
Boeing 737 Next Gen
The 737 “next generation” models are longer and have larger wings than a classic, as well as a 6-panel digital cockpit. Also, most of these newer models have wingtip extensions called winglets
to help improve fuel economy by reducing aerodynamic drag.
Airbus A320 Family
where the Auxilliary Power Unit exhaust is located on an Airbus jet extends out further and is more tapered than a 737. In addition, all A320 family aircraft have wingtip extensions called wingtip fences
737 & A320 Front View
When viewed from the front, the engines
of the 737 classic series look flatter on the bottom and not completely circular. This is due to the need for ground clearance as these aircraft sit low to the ground. Airbus aircraft have a higher ground clearance and more circular engine inlets.
The Boeing 757 compares to the Airbus A321. In actual measurements however, the 757 is 6 feet taller at the tail, 9 feet longer, and has a 13 foot wider wingspan. There are only two versions of the 757, the longer one being 30 feet longer. Also, some airlines are refitting their 757s with winglets to improve fuel economy similar to the 737 Next Generation above.
While these planes can be confused with other narrowbody jets from a distance, the one thing that stands out is the shape of the nose. The Embraer jet has a longer and more tapered nose
, similar to that of their smaller Regional Jets, the ERJ-135/145.
All Embraer 170 family planes have winglets, and the 190 is longer than the 170 and 175 versions.
The 787 looks similar to a 767 and is about the same size, but the major difference is the nose
which is a sloping, more aerodynamic design. Also, the wings do not have winglets but they have a well defined upward curvature and the wingtips are more slightly curved upward as well. This improves the plane’s aerodynamics, fuel economy, and range. The GE engines on this plane are very large and the rear edge of the exhaust duct has a serrated pattern (The only other plane using this engine is the new version of the 747) which helps reduce noise.
Boeing 777 and Airbus A330
These two widebody jets are the longest range twin engine aircraft and look very similar. As noted above, the top of the Boeing fuselage under the tail curves down while the Airbus is straight. The A330 has winglets
while the 777 does not. The tailcone
at the end of the 777 fuselage ends in a wedge shape where the APU exhaust is located while the A330 is more cone shaped.
The A330 is a twin engine version of the 4-engine A340 model.
Click for photos of Boeing 737 Classic aircraft
Photos of Boeing 737 Next Gen aircraft
Click for photos of Airbus A320 aircraft
Click for photos of Boeing 757 aircraft
Click for photos of Embraer 170 & 190 aircraft
Click for photos of Boeing 767 aircraft
Click for photos of Airbus A300 aircraft
Click for photos of Boeing 787 aircraft
Click for photos of Boeing 777 aircraft
Click for photos of Airbus A330 aircraft