Airplane Categories

#flightplanningday feat. a FAQ from you: #airplane categories.
As you know by now, in #aviation, everything‘s categorized, standardized and reglemented; and while it‘s all down to #safetyfirst, in can be hard to see the planes in between trees, or regulations 😅
@icao provides several category types, each for a different purpose (and some authorities refine them yet further), so let‘s try to shed some light and logic.

1st, aircraft, as an official term, is not equal to „plane“ but may refer to all sorts of flying stuff, like helicopters, baloons or gliders (A) – and not any #airport is useable for all aircraft.
For this post, I’ll be sticking to planes (as I personally neither fly nor dispatch other types, apart from maybe paper planes🤷🏼‍♀️).
certification further defines plane categories, eg „transport“ or „aerobatic“.
those are broken down to classes or, for heavier and more complex #aircraft, types. While too complex to list’em all here, „airplane, Single-engine piston (land)“ (class) or „Boeing 737“ (type) tells you what‘s required to fly the plane (ie license, class / type rating; B). Also, every aircraft is allocated a type designator to be filed in #flightplans; @icao offers an extensive database on that (C).

Approach Category

2nd there‘s the approach cat. Referring to speed at threshold (in kts) at max landing weight, it‘s relevant for designing instrument flying procedures. required height / obstacle clearance and thus minima may vary (the faster, the more conservative), and are given in approach charts along with descent rates.
A contains my beloved PA28 I fly for leisure.
Most jet airliners including smaller widebodies fit in C – but -surprise- also the A380; while D contains most large longhaul planes.

CategoryV (AT), ktseg plane type
A< 91PA27 (or other single engines)
B91 - 120ATR 42, Dash8 Q300
C120 -140E190, A320, A330, A380 (!)
D140 -165A346, B747, MD11
E> 165special military

Wake Turbulence Category

3rd we got the wake turbulence category. The heavier the plane, the heavier its wakes, so it’s simply derived from max certificated take-off weight. It‘s crucial for the minimum separation applied by ATC – thus, during #dispatch, we specify it (along with the type designator) in every #flightplan.
most short/mid range planes rank in M and longhauls in H.
560to A380 gets special treatment and its own cat.

Wake turb categoryMax. cert. takekoff mass
L (Light)< 7.5 to
M (Medium)7.5 <136 to
H (Heavy)136 to
J (Super)(A380 special)

Runway reference length

4th there‘s the „aerodrome reference code“, consisting of 2 elements. First is reference runway length, coded from 1(shortest; <800m) to 4 (longest; >1800m). With most jet airliners „code4“ anyway, the 2nd element‘s more intAIResting. resulting from either outer main gear span or wing span, it refers to ground maneuvering characteristics. Particularly for „code F“‘s like B747-8 or A380, only special taxiways may be useable (green) and caution‘s due during NOTAM check.
So now that I‘ve hopefully confused you beyond recovery – full throttle forward and have a great weekend 😃

CodeWingspan (m)Outer main gear span (m)
A< 15< 4.5
B15 - < 244.5 - < 6
C24 - < 366 - < 9
D36 - < 529 - < 14
E52 - < 659 - < 14
F65 - < 8014 - < 16

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