It was a cold windy morning when the Wright Brothers took out their flying machine from their sheds at the Kill Devils hills in North Carolina on the 17th of December 1903. At exactly 10:35 am, Orville Wright flew a distance of 120 feet and was airborne for approximately 12 seconds.The Wright Brothers used their successful glider to build this flying machine which they named the “FLYER“.However they had to increase the wing area considerably to install the engine and the propellers.

Orville Wright on the control of the FLYER as Wilbur Wright assists him . Credit:DAVID McCULLOUGH’S “THE WRIGHT BROTHERS”

If you are interested in knowing more about the Wright Brothers, I would highly recommend you to read “THE WRIGHT BROTHERS” by DAVID McCULLOUGH or visit

The “FLYER” certainly turned out to be one of the inventions of the century that led to the evolution of the aviation industry and the diversification of airplanes.This leads us to categorizing several airplanes and differentiating them further into various classes.

Please note that this post will not be covering information related to the ratings associated with different classes and please do not get confused between classes and type and their related ratings. I will cover the subject related to class and type ratings in a separate post.


According to the FAA, an aircraft category refers to the intended use or operating limits of a particular group of aircraft.The FAA then differentiates aircraft category by their characteristics and physical properties which are broken down with respect to the Certification of Airmen or with respect to Certification of Aircraft.

Certification Of Airmen

For purposes of ratings on a pilot certificate, there are SEVEN different aircraft categories:

1.AIRPLANE: An engine driven fixed wing aircraft heavier than air, that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against its wings.In level flight, there are four forces acting on an airplane. the weight of it is counteracted by the lift produced by the wing and the drag is counteracted by the thrust developed from the engines.

2. ROTORCRAFT: It denotes a heavier than air aircraft that supports the dynamic reaction of the air against its rotors on a vertical axis.The rotor generates its lift by using the rotor blades.

3. POWERED LIFT: A heavier-than-air aircraft capable of vertical take-off, vertical landing, and low-speed flight, which depends principally on engine-driven lift devices or engine thrust for the lift during these flight regimes and on non-rotating aerofoil for lift during horizontal flight.They are a combination of an airplane for horizontal movement and rotorcraft for take off and landing.

4.GLIDER: A non power (without engines) driven heavier than air aircraft that derives its lift chiefly from aerodynamic reactions on surfaces that remain fixed under given conditions of flight.A paper plane made in school is the simplest example of a glider.The most obvious difference between a glider and an airplane is that the later flies without an engine and hence the drag created has to be counteracted by the lift in comparison to an airplane where the engine balances the drag.

5.LIGHTER THAN AIR: Any aircraft chiefly supported by its buoyancy in the air.These aircraft contain a sufficient volume of gas that is lighter than air which when heated creates the necessary lift required.

6.POWERED PARACHUTE: It is a powered aircraft comprised of a semi rigid or a flexible wing so that the wing is not in position until the aircraft is in motion.The fuselage consists of an engine, a seat and is attached to the aircraft landing gear.The thrust from the engine pushes the cart forward forces air into the leading edge of the wing resulting in an inflated and pressurized wing that helps to fly, as it keeps its airfoil shape.

Certification Of Aircraft

With respect to certification of aircraft, it is given in terms of intended use or operating limitations.According to the FAA, they are categorized as follows:

  • TRANSPORT: Multi-engine airplanes with more than 19 seats or a maximum takeoff weight greater than 19,000 lbs must be certificated in the transport category.
  • NORMAL: Aircraft with a maximum take off weight of 12,500 lbs (5700 kgs) and a seating capacity of 09 passenger seats.
  • UTILITY: Aircraft limited to limited acrobatic operations with a maximum take off weight of 12,500 lbs (5700 kgs) and passenger seating capacity of 09 seats.
  • ACROBATIC: Aircraft with no flight maneuver restrictions other than posted by flight tests.They have a maximum take off mass of 12,500 lbs (5700 kgs) and a passenger seating capacity of 09.
  • RESTRICTED: Operation of restricted category aircraft is restricted to special purposes identified in the applicable type design.These special purpose operations can be agricultural work, aerial advertising, forest surveying etc
  • LIMITED: A limited category special airworthiness certificate is issued to operate surplus military aircraft that have been converted to civilian use under guidelines mentioned by the regulatory.
  • PROVISIONAL: A provisional category special airworthiness certificate is issued to conduct special purpose operations of aircraft with provisional type certificates.Class I certificates may be issued for all categories and have a duration of 24 months.  Class II certificates are issued for transport category aircraft only and have a duration of 12 months.


Aircraft class relates to a broader grouping of aircraft having similar characteristics of propulsion, flight and landing.The categories of aircraft are therefore broken down into further classes.As mentioned earlier, the categories of aircraft are divided into certification of airmen and certification of aircraft.Both the categories will have their classes but we will be discussing the classes based on the category of airmen.

1.AIRPLANE: The airplane category is divided into 4 classes:


2.ROTORCRAFT: The rotorcraft category is divided into 2 classes:


3.POWERED LIFT:The powered lift category is not divided into classes.

4.GLIDER: The glider category is not divided into classes.

5.LIGHTER THAN AIR: The LTA aircraft are divided into 2 classes:


6.POWERED PARACHUTE: The category is divided into 2 classes:

  • Powered Parachute Land
  • Powered Parachute Sea

7.WEIGHT -SHIFT-CONTROL:The category is divided into 2 classes:

  • Weight shift control Land
  • Weight shift control Sea
Categories and Class of Aircraft

Every week we discuss a fun fact about aviation and this week we talk about Amelia Earhart.

FACT:Amelia Earhart became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean on the 20th OF May 1932.Earhart set off from Newfoundland, Canada in her single engine Lockheed Vega 5B. After a flight lasting 14 hours 56 minutes during which she contended off several problems, Earhart successfully landed in Northern Ireland. Earhart’s accomplishments in the field of aviation inspired a generation of female aviators to join the air force and continues to inspire female pilots around the globe #GIRLPOWER.

That is it for this week everyone.I hope you gained some knowledge from this weeks post and liked it as well.Please don’t forget to like and share it with your fellow aviators. I would love to know which category of aircraft do you fly or would love to fly in the comments below.Until next time stay safe and stay healthy.




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