Jet Airliner Spotting Guide


With the wide variety of jet airliners serving the worldwide travel market today, identification of individual manufacturers and aircraft can be a bit tricky.

Included on this page is a quick and easy guide to spotting the common jet airliners of the day. We include airliners from Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and Bombardier.

A 4-engine Boeing 747SP of Bahrain AirA 4-engine Boeing 747SP of Bahrain Air

We don't deal with turboprops, business jets or military aircraft on this site. And while we recognize the existence and important of early jetliners such as the 707, DC-8 and Convair 880, they are not the main focus on this site. But you can read about spotting older, vintage jet airliners and view their photographs.

Let's get started ...

Does It Have Four Engines?

If the airliner has two engines under each wing, for a total of four, it must be a Boeing 747, Airbus A340 or Airbus A380. If it is a smaller, regional type jet, it is probably a BAe 146/Avro RJ.

View our spotting guide for 4-engine jet airliners


It Looks Like a Three Engine "Tri-Jet"

A 3-engine DC-10 in Continental Airlines liveryA 3-engine DC-10 in Continental Airlines livery

If the airliner has three engines, one in the tail, and in addition one each under each wing or two on the aft fuselage, it is an older aircraft, probably a Boeing 727, Douglas DC-10, McDonnell-Douglas MD-11 or Lockheed L-1011.

Few of these are in service today, and many of the ones that are in the air cargo marketplace.

View our spotting guide for 3-engine jet airliners


A 2-engine, narrow-body, single-aisle British Airways Boeing 757A 2-engine, British Airways Boeing 757

This Airliner Only Has Two Engines ... What Is It?

Now for the hard part! Most jet airliners in service today have two engines, one under each wing. Most active airliners manufactured by Boeing and Airbus have this configuration.

Twin-engine Narrow-Body

Boeing continues to manufacture the highly successful twin-engine, narrow-body 737 series, while Airbus produces large numbers of its A320 family.

The Boeing 757 twin-engine is out of production but still in active usage.

If the airliner has two engines, one on each side of the rear fuselage, then it is probably a Boeing 717, a MD-80 variant or possibly a jetliner from Bombardier or Embraer.

A 2-engine Emirates Airbus A330A 2-engine, wide-body Emirates Airbus A330

Twin-engine Wide-Body

Several aircraft reside in the "twin-engine, wide-body" category, including:

View our spotting guide for 2-engine jet airliners