Airbus and Boeing use this special naming scheme for their civilian aircraft models.

All Boeings built today are B7x7. (In the past, also other numbers were used: the shortened version of a B707, the B727 and even older models like B367, B377 etc. )

Also, Airbus uses a common scheme: A3x0, though there a few numbers outside this scheme: A318/19/21

(Both manufacturers also build military aircrafts with different schemes, like A400M.)

So, is there a special reason for these naming schemes, or is is just that they sound good and unique?

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    $\begingroup$ Boeing doesn't actually name its aircraft B7x7 -- just 7x7. In contrast, the A in Airbus models is part of the model name Airbus itself uses. $\endgroup$ – hmakholm left over Monica Feb 3 '15 at 22:24
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    $\begingroup$ I remember hearing that the first Airbus was called A300 because it could fit 300 passengers. Then, they just incremented the second digit from there. $\endgroup$ – usernumber Feb 3 '15 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, they followed Boeing in that. Now the single digits are shorter or longer versions of a basic type, and the steps in tens are for the new types. But this is not wholly consistent, or we would have seen an A339 and an A341. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Feb 3 '15 at 23:17

Airbus started with the A300, which as usernumber commented was a 300-seat airliner design. So A for Airbus, and 300 for the number of seats. An A250 was also considered (guess how many seats), which became the A300B. The models counted up by 10 from there.

Boeing model numbers historically counted up, including the Model 40, Model 80, Model 247, Model 307 Stratoliner and Model 377 Stratocruiser. At the dawn of the jet age, they decided to change up their numbering scheme:

To support this diversification strategy, the engineering department divided the model numbers into blocks of 100 for each of the new product areas: 300s and 400s continued to represent aircraft, 500s would be used on turbine engines, 600s for rockets and missiles and 700s were set aside for jet transport aircraft.

The 707 prototype was called the 367-80, or "Dash 80." When the time came to give it an official number they knew it was going to be a "Jet Transport" and would get a 700-series number, and they decided "707" had a better sound to it than "700". They kept the 7's and have counted up from there (not entirely in order).

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    $\begingroup$ Now the Asian customers are the most promising, and aircraft numbers are chosen with Chinese superstition in mind. 8 is a lucky number in China, and that's why the A380 did not become the A350 (which would have been the next number in the line), and the newest 747 is the 747-8. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Feb 3 '15 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ There's also a bit of oddness with the 717: Originally, it referred to the C-135 series of military aircraft, which were also developed from the Dash 80 (the 707 and C-135 are basically siblings with the Dash 80 as the common ancestor, though the C-135 predates the 707). However, when they bought McDonnell Douglas, they decided to reuse 717 for the MD-95, which is what it mostly refers to today. $\endgroup$ – cpast Feb 3 '15 at 23:55
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    $\begingroup$ @PeterKämpf - Might that explain the 787 as well? I wonder if Boeing will switch to the 800s after they run out of 7s (there's on 797 left I think...). I'd love to fly on a Boeing 808 just because it be the most banging plane ever with the fattest bass you've ever heard. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Feb 4 '15 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ @JayCarr: No, the 787 was next in line after the 777. But you can see in their "Dreamliner" name where they intend to go long term. No more technical names - all will be dominated by Marketing, including the airplane names. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Feb 4 '15 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ @JonStory There are still 707 aircraft in service. It's also a very iconic model to be recycling. Same for 727. And then we're in trouble because most of the other models are still in production. $\endgroup$ – fooot Feb 5 '15 at 0:44

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