How many types of aircraft....?

I’ve always wondered how many different types of aircraft there have been since humans were capable of flight.
By aircraft I mean lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air vehicles (balloons,airplanes,helicopters, etc.)
As for TYPES of aircraft, I mean for example…(1) P-51 Mustang, (2) Boeing 707, (3) Antonov An-2, (4) Lockheed Constellation, (5) Piper Cub…which would be five (5) types of aircraft.
I just wondered if anyone has ever bothered to compile a list?

Just one-drin’!!!

I doubt this is answerable. It would certainly be in the tens of thousands. I can think of hundreds just off the top of my head and I don’t even know much about planes.

Nope, there’s just the five. Anything else is just a figment of your imagination.

Or start with this list at

I think RickJay’s right, in the context of this message board. While there is, in fact, a finite number of types produced up until today, that number will be difficult to pin down, and it grows with each passing day, or month, or whatever.

Look at the link av8rmike posted, and then combine that with what you’ll get from a Google search for U.S. Air Force designations. Then look at the ignored Japanese and German efforts - oh, did I mention the Russians, Italians and French?

Lots of castaways we don’t hear much about - the A-36 precedent to the P-51 Mustang, the B-32 Dominator, the TU-4, several one-offs, and prototypes such as the B-71 that had no production numbers to speak of.

There is a number out there, but it’ll be tough to capture.

Sorry, Brits, I *do[/] believe y’all have produced some aeroplanes of note, as well (the Spit, Hurricane, Meteor, oh, Lysander, ackkkk! - it is all too much).

Here is a pretty good list of airplanes made by commercial manufacturers around the world. I don’t think it contains any military craft however.

Do you realize just what you are asking? Assuming my link is complete (and I doubt it is), we still need the following:

  1. Every type of hot air balloon ever made (including the first one in France).
  2. Every type of hanglider, parasail, and paraglider
  3. Every type of helicopter
  4. Every military aircraft
  5. All types of aircraft built from commercial kits.
  6. All aircraft that were built from scratch or pieced together from other aircraft

I am sure I am missing something but my head is already spinning.

And then there are the homebuilts…

… guy down the road from me designed and built his own airplane from scratch - called it the Breezy. I know he sold plans to a few others so now there’s more than one. But it’s not from a “commercial designer”, it’s not a kit, and I know there’s been more than one guy who did something like that and I have no idea how you’re going to account for all of those.

Heck, Rutan’s done one-offs more than once and we know about those mostly because he’s achieved some fame. But outside of aviation circles has anyone heard of the Rutan Boomerang?

Yes, there’s a finite number but it’s going to be very hard to make truly complete list.

After you get your list of aircraft compiled for all of the categories that we have mentioned so far, you are not done yet. Go back and get every type of:

  1. Ultralight
  2. Sailplane
  3. Gyrocopter

If you are going to do it, you might as well do it right.

  1. Trike
  2. Powered parachute
  3. Motorglider

I have a “Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft”. It has helicopters but not balloons or gliders. It is 925 pages and has about 2 or 3 models per page. (variants are listed for each model, example there are 18 variants listed for the Fairchild C-82 Packet/C-119 flying boxcar)

If we limit it to commercial (no homebuilts) airplanes (and not dirigables, etc), and count the variants as one model, I’m guessing the number may be less than 10,000.


Nuh-uh, Whiskey Papa - the OP clearly said:

And darn it, I’ve been *thinking * about this since yesterday. You got

Lighter-than-air - hot air balloons, gas balloons, zeplins, and blimps
Fixed-wing - airplanes, as normally defined, and there really are thousands of those. Those can be further subdivided into gliders and powered.
Rotorcraft - helicoptors and gyrocraft
Lifting bodies - sort of like a really thick, chunky wing, and not at all common.
Flex-wings - the hanggliders, trikes, and parachutes
Rockets - stubby, stubby wings, fly mostly by thrust

Then you get stuff like the space shuttle, which takes off as a rocket and lands as a glider. And the Osprey, which is both fixed wing and rotor.

First the I think the OP would really have to define what he/she means by aircraft - anything that flies at all, or is there a limit? “Anything at all” brings in the radio control aircraft, too, including those unmanned drones that have been in the news of late. Do you count spacecraft, too? Or just things that fly in an atmosphere?

Then we have to define how far we’re subdividing - is the entire run of Cessna 150 aircraft just one type, or more? Do we divide the “commuter” C150’s from the “aerobat” C150’s? The US built from the French built? Is a C150A a distinct and separate type from a C150B or just a variation? Is a C152 the same as a C150? Lots of pilots lump together… And that’s just for one sort of airplane. Repeat for all those thousands of others…