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Directorate General for Mobility and Transport

Inovation, Strategy and Sustenability Department

General Office of Aviation & Related Services

Question from Jaquilene (France):

How can I tell

apart an Airbus
from a Boeing?
Answered and exemplified by

Holder of the European General Aviation License

1|Airbus vs. Boeing

B734 has a more streamlined and "pointy" nose and a more streamlined
"forehead". Windshield is also different on B734 making that
characteristic corner plus the "eyebrows" which are not though standard
on all 737's.

B734 engine is thinner with the characteristic flattening at the bottom of
it. The engine cover is also longer in B734.

B734 has that characteristic aerodynamic extension on the root of the fin.
Also the fin and horizontal stabilizers/stabilators are located closer to the
fuselage end in B734 compared to A320

2|Airbus vs. Boeing

Landing Gear
Looking at the gear adds a new hint. Some landing gears are unique,
which means that only looking at them will be enough to determine the
precise aircraft type. These very specific gears are :


A340 (2 different kinds for this aircraft only)


It's not worth to look at the nose wheels, because there are always 2. But
the main landing gear is helpful.

3|Airbus vs. Boeing

The confusing ones are twin-engined, wide or narrow bodied. Narrow

body, (single-aisle): 737, A-320, 757, (Also Embraier Em-170...195,
Sukhoi 100, Bombardier C class, Tu-204..)

Nose shape is useful. Boeings tend to be more pointed, as shown


Airbus had little 'winglets' that go both above and below the wing on
their older products. Boeing winglets are much taller, with curved
transitions from wing to winglets. The latest 737 options are doublediagonal winglets that extend above and below the wing.

737s have very short main landing gear, so their engines are mostly
ahead of the wing. Their main gear has 2 wheels (as shown above)
and the outside of the outer wheel and tire are visible from below, no
doors over them. Lots were built without winglets, but retrofits and
new airplanes have tall winglets that curve up above the wing. The
latest 737 winglets are inclined, above and below the wing, like half
an "X". Exclusive operators include Southwest (USA) and Ryanair

A-318, A-319, A-320, A-321, are different lengths, short to long,

narrow bodied, similar in size to the 737 family, but have longer
landing gear legs, and their engines are under their wings. Almost all
built with small, flat, winglets, above and below the wings. Exclusive
operators include Jet Blue, Virgin America

757 family are narrow-bodied twin engined, with unusual cockpits.

They share the cockpit design of the wide-body 767, higher
numbered but designed earlier. 757s have deeper fuselages aft of
the wing than in front of the wing. Many are being retrofitted with
large winglets.

Wide body, (double-aisle): A-300, A-310, A-330, 767, 777, 787. more
Three or four engine airplanes are really pretty easy:

A-380s, with two decks, full length, are Airbus products.

4|Airbus vs. Boeing

747s, with small to medium upper decks behind the cockpit, are

727s, with three skinny, low-bypass, engines, are Boeings.

Tu-134 and 154 are three-skinny-engined, narrow bodied, with

distinctive fairings on the trailing edge of the wings into which the
main landing gear retract.

DC-10 / MD-10 / MD-11 Are wide-bodied, have high-bypass

engines, with the middle one mounted in the middle of the vertical
fin/rudder. FedEx operate them, but not exclusively. The USAF use
some as tankers.

L-1011 are wide bodied, have high bypass engines, with the middle
one mounted inside the back of the fuselage, like a 727, Tu-154, etc.
Orbital Sciences operate one as a carrier for satellite launches. The
RAF used some as tankers, nearly all are retired now.

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5|Airbus vs. Boeing