Are there any good resources that teach you how to identify jetliners from the ground? I'd love to see some great comparative photos of their silhouettes. Books or websites are both ok.

For example, here's a plane that was flying over yesterday en-route to KSFO. I'm guessing it's a 747 or A380, but I can't easily guess from this angle.

silhouette of plane from the ground

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ given the tail and what has been said here I would say that's a 747 $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 6:33
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ not just the tail, the shape of the wing, the diameter of the engines, all indicate a 747 and an early model at that. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 7:44

2 Answers 2


The canonical reference for aircraft recognition would be Jane's All the World's Aircraft.

http://www.airliners.net is also a useful resource, but generally means working from photos - the line drawings in Jane's are often easier to use because they abstract away things like airline liveries and distill the aircraft down to its basic shapes.

  • $\begingroup$ @JeffreyBosboom Looks like IHS is "restructuring" (breaking every link on) their website. Moved the link to Wikipedia for now. $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 4:21

A Field Guide to Airplanes is also really good. I find it better than Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide because it is categorized by aircraft appearance, and also is written like a field guide as opposed to a reference book.


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