If one reads through 10 articles describing a plane which overran a contaminated runway, the term aquaplane will be used 9 times and the term hydroplane once (and on that one time there will be a snarky comment at the end of the article.)

Articles describing automobile crashes, on the other hand tend, to use the term hydroplane much more frequently. A google N-gram search turns up far more instances of hydroplane but this is perhaps simply because more people write and think about cars losing control.

My question is this: Is the use of Aquaplane in aviation the result of some recognizable difference in the loss in braking/traction by an aircraft wheel? If so what is the difference between the definition of hydroplaning and aquaplaning? I've been unable to find an answer because most web searches just turn up information about the automotive phenomenon.

I'm beginning to think this is just a result of aviation preferring to use more technically correct terms (like saying a runway is contaminated rather than wet) rather than a scientific or etymological difference between the two terms (like how physicists use the term centripetal while the rest of us prefer centrifugal)

Can anyone cite an aviation-specific definition of aquaplaning that distinguishes if from hydroplaning?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The difference is one is derived from Latin, the other from Greek. It may be a dialect thing, but I found publications from FAA, Airbus, Michelin aero and Goodyear aero that mention "hydroplaning" but none that mention "aquaplaning." $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Mar 30, 2018 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


It is the same thing, even wikipedia cross lists them, however in the case of aviation it is both a noun and a verb

Aquaplane enter image description here



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    $\begingroup$ I've never heard "aquaplane" used to mean a type of aircraft, it's usually "seaplane" or "floatplane" $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Mar 30, 2018 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife I hadn't either until I saw the redirect on wiki ""Aquaplane" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Hydroplane (boat), Seaplane, Floatplane, or Flying boat." apparently that is something that people confuse enough for them to put that $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Mar 30, 2018 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ I had come across aquaplane as a craft in my search for a variation in definitions but just assumed it was one of those archaic terms. I don't see the term "aeroplane" much anymore either $\endgroup$
    – user28387
    Mar 30, 2018 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @PhotoScientist I suspect that's a dialect thing: "aeroplane" is commonly used in British English. You can always ask on english.SE if you're interested in that aspect, they're the experts on usage and regional variations. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Mar 30, 2018 at 22:12

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