ID'ing aircraft [Re: AA 777-200IGW]

Date:         17 Mar 99 01:24:40 
From: (Joe Castleman)
Organization: Gyrofrog Communications
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RampRat <> wrote:
>As an industry employee and childhood enthusiast, has anyone else
>experienced that sadness that aircraft no longer seem to posess their
>distinctive features? After all a 767, 777, A330 and even (for us myopic
>types) A300/310 all look much the same[...]

Also, an A320 is pretty similar to a 737.  Maybe not as similar, though,
as those other models are to each other.  Or, how about an A321 vs. a 757?

>[...]whereas a 727 or DC8-63 were instantly recognisable even from some
>distance!  Technology may be evolving towards ideal configurations but that
>magical quality has lately been lost to those of us who loved the classic ships
>of the 60s to the 80s.

I've wondered about that.  I guess that maybe there are only so many
designs that are practical.  There were some radical ideas introduced
between, say, 1945 and 1975, but everything since 1975 seems to be a
variation of designs from 1960 to 1975.  What's left?  Maybe a
high-mounted wing on an airliner, like a Bae146 but larger?  I suspect
that they haven't tried that for a reason.  Also, the 757 originally had a
T-tail like the 727, and I suppose this was redesigned for some specific
reason, as well.  Another design I've wondered about would be a widebody
airliner with a T-tail and rear-mounted engines (in fact I think there was
such a plane proposed as a successor to the BAC-111).  You did mention
"ideal configurations," and I'll speculate that they narrowed those down
to just a few.

At least the similarity in designs gives us a fun challenge (well, for me
anyway).  For instance, an A300 has some sort of "pylons" on the underside
of its wings, and the tail slopes up at a fairly straight angle (something
I've noticed with other Airbuses).  On the other hand, a 767 is more
cone-shaped aft of the wing.  A BAC-111 has a stockier tail than a DC-9,
and its engines are mounted lower; an F100 has less sweep on its wing, and
its engines are more forward-mounted, than a DC-9's.  Also, a DC-9 doesn't
have oval windows like the other two.

A DC-8 I can distinguish by sound!  I don't know why, as they don't seem
any louder than any other plane that old, and they even have different
types of engines.  Yet the sound is very distinctive; high-pitched.
Personally, I think it's those nostrils! ;-)

Some planes you can rule out just because they aren't around anymore.
That Airborne Express freighter is probably a DC-8, and not a 707, 720,
CV880 nor CV990.

Other planes seemingly have to be distinguished by airline: if it's
British Airways, it's a Super VC10; if it's Cubana, it's an IL-62.

Joe Castleman       --
Gyrofrog Communications --
Austin, Texas  U.S.A.