Aren’t Aircrafts and Airplanes the Same Thing?

“Aircrafts and airplanes aren’t the same thing?”

The terms “aircraft” and “airplane” are used interchangeably in colloquial usage. Since either one makes sense in everyday use, not many people know the difference between them. As they have different definitions, however, it is important to use them accordingly.

In this post, we will show you how to classify various aircrafts thorough understanding of categorization!

Aircrafts are bigger than airplanes!

Usually, “aircraft” is a broad term that refers to not just airplanes, but also all other man-made flying vehicles. Aircrafts include jet airliners, spaceships, helicopters, hot-air balloons, and airships. In other words, aircraft is the largest category that includes all types of flying vehicles. The Korean Aviation Act and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) define “aircraft” as follows.

“Aircraft” is any machine that can be used for aviation, including airplanes, airships, gliders, rotorcrafts and others, prescribed by Presidential Decree.
Article 2-1 of the Aviation Act (ROK)
Any machine that can fly safely by deriving support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air such as airplanes, airships, gliders, and rotorcrafts.
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

How do we categorize aircrafts?

Aircrafts can be categorized by various standards including power or lift methods. Based on “weight in relation to the air,” they are categorized into lighter-than-air aircraft and heavier-than-air aircraft. Let’s delve into it and look at some examples!

(1) Lighter-than-air aircraft

Lighter-than-air aircrafts float with buoyancy by sealing lighter-than-air gases in bags. Such gases include hydrogen gas, helium gas, and hot air.

Balloons are unpowered and freely floating, while airships fly with ballonets in the power engine. Airships are mainly used for tourism and promotional purposes.

(2) Heavier-than-air aircraft

Heavier-than-air aircrafts fly by using lift generating from wings. There are fixed wings and rotary wings.

Airplanes that we are all very familiar with are fixed-wing aircrafts with a power unit (engine). They are used for various purposes, such as passenger travel, cargo and transport.

Helicopters refer to an aircraft that flies with lift and propulsion by rotating wings. They do not need a long runway like airplanes and can take off vertically and stay still midair, so they are often used where airports cannot be built, including for extinguishing fires and doing rescue operations.

Meanwhile, gliding aircrafts are also known as gliders. They have wings like airplanes, but they fly along the wind without any propeller, jet, or other propulsion system. They start gliding after they are towed at the end of other aircrafts and reach a certain height.

Hang gliders are also an unpowered type of aircraft that allows people to fly in the air along with the air current. Since the pilot controls their hang glider by moving their body’s center of gravity, it is highly recognized as an air sport.

We’ve looked at the concepts and categories of aircrafts. We hope you found this post helpful in demystifying the concept of aircraft. We will return with more exciting pieces of aviation information, so stay tuned!

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