We’ve been wanting to put together some ‘Plane Spotting For Dummies’ type learning material for a while. We just weren’t sure of how we’d present it. So, what we’ve started with is some quick, informative videos with an accompanying article that adds a bit more detailed information. For expert plane spotters, this may not be for you. In this article and video, the ‘Average Joe’ who likes to watch airplanes should come away with a better understanding of how to tell the popular Airbus A320 Family and the Boeing 737 Next Generation Family apart.
Why did we start here with these two groups? Well, most likely if you’re flying somewhere within a country or continent anywhere in the world, it’s going to be on an aircraft from one of these two families. If you’re hanging around the airport, doing a little plane spotting, these are they two types of airliner you will see most often. At smaller airports, these might be the largest birds you’ll see.
It should be noted that this is not a comparison between the Airbus A320neo variants and the Boeing 737 MAX variants. Although, several identifiers would still apply.
In the photos below, the Airbus is always on the left and the Boeing is always on the right.
Airbus A320 Family and Boeing 737 Next Generation Family Comparison Video
This short video includes clips of each family in action, general specs when comparing the four variants in each family and the identifiers shown below. If you like what you see, please give it a ‘Thumb’s Up’ in YouTube. If you love it, please share with friends!
The engine shape of the Boeing 737 not only differentiates it from the Airbus A320 but from pretty much any other kind of aircraft. Instead of being perfectly round, the 737 engine has a flattened bottom which gives the opening an oblong look. The Airbus aircraft have perfectly rounded engines.
This isn’t one I personally use as a major indentifier. However, some do. The nose of the Airbus is stubbier, more rounded. In comparison, the Boeing nose is pointier. As a bit of a bonus, you’ll also notice from the image above that the front landing gear doors operate in a different manner. The Airbus looks to close up a good portion of the door while with the Boeing, the full door remains open during the landing.
Cockpit Side Window
If you’re using the nose shape as an identifier, you can verify by looking a bit further back at the side cockpit windows. The Airbus has windows that have a flush bottom. With the Boeing aircraft, the two side windows meet at a lowered down point.
This is another identifier that is quite unique to the Boeing 737. Where the front line of the tail meets the fuselage, there is a curved forward portion of the tail. With the Airbus and most other aircraft, the tail meets the fuselage pretty much flush. Not completely unique, the Embraer E190 aircraft have a similar tail shape to the Boeing 737.
Looking at the tail exhaust portion that extends beyond the back of the tail, you’ll notice a considerable difference between the two types of aircraft. The Airbus has a longer tail exhaust with a rounded end. The Boeing has a shorter tail exhaust with an oblong shape.
One of my favourite identifiers is the wingtips. Although, this is not absolute. You will find Boeing 737 NG variants without winglets installed and you will find some Airbus A319 models with winglets similar to those on the 737. Generally, though, you can use this as a pretty accurate way to ID the airplanes.
The Airbus models have a triangular wing tip fence that is unique to the A320 / A310 family. The Boeing models most also have the winglets that swoop upwards. Many have an extra piece that points down, as well, known as a Split Scimitar Winglet.
When in doubt, just enter the registration number into Google and a number of very detailed sites will pop up to give you all the information you need. If you’re boarding an airplane, be warned that some of the information you find may not make you so comfortable. You may be surprised by how many ‘incidents’ the aircraft you’re about to fly in has had.