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On some aircraft lists, including Eurocontrol's Aircraft Performance Database, aircraft have a 3 character code as their type. For example, an Airbus A320neo has a type of "L2J", a Boeing 747-400 has a type of "L4J" and a Cessna 152 has a type of "L1P".

I'm guessing the 2nd character is the number of engines (although some aircraft have a C for the 2nd character, and I'm not sure what that means), and the 3rd character is the type of engine (e.g. P for Piston, J for jet and T for turbine).

I'm not sure what the first character represents.

There are 6 options for the first character: L, S, A, H, G and T.

Does anyone know how these codes work?

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Those are aircraft type descriptions, and are covered by ICAO Doc 8643.

The first symbol describes the aircraft type:

  • L - Landplane, e.g. A320. Note: A floatplane, which can temporarily be converted to a landplane or vice versa, is described as a landplane and not a seaplane or amphibian in ICAO Doc 8643.
  • S - Seaplane, e.g. HARBIN SH-5 (ICAO designator SH5)
  • A - Amphibian, e.g. LA4
  • G - Gyrocopter, e.g. A002
  • H - Helicopter, e.g. A109
  • T - Tiltrotor, e.g. V22

The second symbol specifies the number of engines 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 or C, where C means that two engines are coupled to drive a single propeller system (e.g. C08T). The C symbol is only used for fixed-wing aircraft.

The third symbol specifies the engine type:

  • J - jet
  • T - turboprop/turboshaft
  • P - piston
  • E - electric
  • R - rocket

Source: Aircraft Description (ICAO Doc 8643), skybrary.aero


For the FAA, they're broken down to Aircraft Class and Aircraft Engine Number and Type, followed by the FAA Weight Class. E.g. Fixed-wing 2J/H. (See JO 7360.1 - Aircraft Type Designators.)

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    $\begingroup$ Do dirigibles and blimps have a coding? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ @RBarryYoung: they have a special designator: SHIP. And balloons get BALL. But no description codes further than that. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ I guess it's a good thing there are no flyable B-36s: not only does it have too many engines, it has engines of mixed types. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ Notable that the word Ballon is in fact derived from the word Ball, but this is the first time that I've seen it obvious in usage. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 6:49

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