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Ever wondered what makes a jet different from a helicopter? What a private jet looks like or what is in a military jet? As we dive into the fascinating world of aircraft, you’ll find out about the different types of aircraft and the different categories within those types, including jets, helicopters, small aircraft, military aircraft, and more. We’ll explore the types of aircraft and what sets each of them apart. 


In simple terms, an aircraft is any type of machine that is capable of flight. This machine utilizes the air to counter the force of gravity. It may be supported by its own buoyancy or from the action of air on the surface of the machine. 

Several types of aircraft exist, and it’s important to understand what they are. Whether you’re an enthusiast, a professional, or you’re just interested in aviation and how aircraft function, it’s helpful to recognize that not all aircraft are the same. You can divide these machines into categories: jets, helicopters, small aircraft, passenger aircraft, military aircraft, and special purpose aircraft. 


The first type of aircraft we’re going to discuss is the jet. Even in this broad category, you’ll find them divided into private jets, commercial jets, and military jets. A jet is a type of aircraft that is propelled by jet engines. A jet engine is an engine that is internally combustible. You may have noticed a streak in the sky as an aircraft goes overhead. That streak of white behind the jet is made from hot exhaust gases that propel the jet forward. These gases burn fuel and draw air in from the atmosphere. 

Did you know that jets can fly faster than the speed of sound? They often fly at altitudes of 33-49,000 feet (about twice the height of Mount Everest) or even higher. These aircraft are versatile enough to be used in many applications. 

PRIVATE JETS  Private jets are owned by a private individual or organization and reserved for their transportation. You may have seen celebrities on TV shows or in movies who fly on private jets. They usually have luxurious accommodations with room to move around. They can be customized to fit the design style and needs of the owner. Some businesses use private jets to take high-level employees or stakeholders to meetings or to oversee a project. 

COMMERCIAL JETS  Commercial jets are a different type of aircraft because they provide mass transportation. They are the backbone of the airline industry, flying people all over the country and globally. These jets come in different sizes and can accommodate hundreds of passengers at one time. 

MILITARY JETS  The military uses jets to transport members of the armed forces. These jets use advanced technology to provide information about enemy aircraft and other data the military needs for its daily operations. Military jets act as defense mechanisms as fighters, bombers, and for cargo and transport. One of the legends in this category is he F-22 Raptor fighter jet and the B-52 as the bomber jet. 


Helicopters work differently than jets by using rotating blades to lift the machine into the air and keep it suspended. They don’t require a runway like jets and other aircraft. Helicopters can lift off from almost anywhere, which allows them to be more versatile in various situations. Just like with jets, there are different categories of helicopters. 

CIVILIAN HELICOPTERS  This type of helicopter is used by individuals and organizations to transport goods, supplies, and people to various destinations. They are used in tourism, taking people to areas that can’t be reached by vehicles. Helicopters can also provide medical transport to hospitals. For instance, a person may be seriously injured in a car accident. They need to go to a specialized hospital with a trauma unit that is hundreds of miles away. A helicopter can transport them quicker than an ambulance, allowing them to get treatment sooner. 

MILITARY HELICOPTERS  The military uses helicopters for various reasons. They are ideal in rugged terrain where a jet couldn’t go because of the lack of a runway. They can be used on reconnaissance missions to rescue soldiers or civilians in enemy territory. Helicopters are also used in combat with armed soldiers. 

RESCUE HELICOPTERS  Helicopters are used with search and rescue operations. They are useful when searching for a missing person because they can cover a lot of ground quickly. Rescue personnel may take a helicopter to reach people trapped because of flooding or fire. 


A small aircraft weighs less than 12,500 pounds (about twice the weight of an elephant) at take-off. Though that is the official definition according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), small aircraft are usually fixed wing airplanes that aren’t labeled as transport. They are used for short-distance travel, in training, or for recreation. Three types of aircraft may be considered small. 

SINGLE-ENGINE PLANES  These planes are often owned privately or used by organizations for training. They have only one engine and aren’t as powerful as larger aircraft. They are mainly used to transport a few people a short distance to a local destination. 


These aircraft are nearly silent when they fly. They are popular with sport aviation. Gliders don’t rely on an engine, instead being supported by the dynamic reaction of the air against the machine. Some gliders may have an engine to extend the flight. 


This type of small aircraft is an affordable choice for many people who want to own a plane. They are popular in adventure aviation, transporting the pilot to a fun destination. Ultralights have only one seat and the pilot doesn’t have to get a license to fly. 


As the name suggests, passenger aircraft carries passengers. They are divided into regional, narrow-body, and wide-body jets. These types of passenger aircraft are recognized by their size and number of passengers they can carry. They also offer different levels of comfort for the passengers. 

REGIONAL JETS  Regional jets are mainly used for short-haul flights or at regional airports. They can connect small airports with just a few flights to major airports with numerous ongoing flights each day to save people from driving hours from home.   

NARROW-BODY JETS  These jets are ideal for medium-haul flights. They are often used for flights from one state to another or across the country. They have a single aisle with seats on either side. Narrow-body jets are a staple in the aviation industry, allowing frequent flyers to get where they need to go in just a few hours.



These large jets have spacious cabins with two aisles. They can carry hundreds of passengers across the country or on international flights. Seats are larger and the aisles are wider to provide comfortable transport on multi-hour flights. You also get more overhead storage space to keep belongings without checking them in. 


The military use a variety of aircraft for both defense and to obtain a strategic advantage against the enemy. The types of military aircraft come in various sizes and excel in speed, agility, and more. 


Fighter planes battle the enemy in air-to-air combat either as defense or as offense. They are known for their agility and speed, able to change directions in mere seconds. Fighter planes may escort bombers or other types of aircraft on missions. 

BOMBERS  Bombers are larger than fighters and heavier. They can carry a massive payload of bombs and other attack weapons. These aircraft mainly engage in ground attacks because they aren’t fast enough to take on the enemy in the air. The most famous bombers are the planes in the B-52 line. 


This is a non-combat aircraft, which is mainly used to transport supplies and troops. Cargo may be unloaded on pallets or dropped with parachutes from the air, which eliminates the need to find a place to land. 


Aircraft that fits in this category doesn’t have a specific look or use. Anything that doesn’t fit in one of the other categories would be considered a special purpose aircraft. They are used for specialized missions, such as surveillance or advertising. 


Advanced technology has allowed for the use of unmanned aircraft. Drones provide surveillance in areas where people can’t easily go or where they aren’t allowed. Modern drones can fly long distances from the controls and take pictures or record video. 


This special type of aircraft is made to land in the water. It’s ideal for rocky terrain where landing on the ground is nearly impossible. Seaplanes are useful for island hopping and other water landings. 


If you’ve been to live outdoor sporting events, you may have seen a blimp flying overhead with the name of some company on the body or flying behind the aircraft. Blimps have a unique shape and are used for advertising, surveillance, and research. 

As you can see, there are many types of aircrafts to fit various needs, including jets, helicopters, small aircraft, passenger and military aircraft, and special purpose aircraft. Share your experience with any of these aircraft whether it was riding in an aircraft or just seeing it on display. 

To enjoy your own flight here on the ground, you can visit one of our Flight Adventure Parks. Enjoy our various programs that allow you to feel like you’re flying on our wall-to-wall trampolines. Check out our locations to find one near you. 



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