My understanding was that "small" covered planes up to 12,500 pounds, no matter the engine type.

Would that be gross weight/max takeoff weight?

Brought to mind by the two recent Cessna Citation crashes (Cessna 560, Cessna 680A), and head lines of "Small jet crashed during takeoff" and "Small jet crashed during landing". Pretty sure their gross weights, 15900 lbs and 30800 lbs would push them out of the small category.

Luckily, all crew and passengers were able to walk away in both accidents.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Related: Is there a definition of light/medium/heavy aircraft? From that Q&A I read it as MTOW. I'd guess when a newspaper writes about a "small airplane" then they probably don't have ICAO or FAA regulations in mind but simply common sense, like "up to 10 seats", "up to 150 seats" and "(way) more than 200 seats" or something similar which is comprehensible to laymen. $\endgroup$
    – PerlDuck
    Aug 22, 2019 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ So that link would suggest "Medium" then: (E) Medium: Small commuter aircraft including business jets weighing more than 12,500 up to 41,000 lbs such as the Embraer 120 or the Learjet 35; The news couldn't even get that correct. $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Aug 22, 2019 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ "Light" is a category with a specific criteria (MTOGW 12,500# or less). "Small" is simply an adjective, applied subjectively and without a similarly clear definition. Especially when used by reporters. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Aug 22, 2019 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ On hold for an FAA terms definition? Really? $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Aug 23, 2019 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


I wouldn't expect press headlines to adhere to the FAA or ICAO definitions of "small", "large", "heavy", etc. This would be a public vernacular definition of "small", which would distinguish from the big airliners most people think of when hearing about jet planes.


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