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The airliner Airbus A320 of Airbus SAS is one of the most produced European aircraft

An aircraft is a vehicle that flies or drives within the earth's atmosphere .

The earth's atmosphere has no sharp upper limit to space . Flights below an altitude of about 100 km ( Kármán line ) are generally considered to be aviation , and flights above as space travel . Section 1 (2) of the Aviation Act (Germany) defines aircraft and aircraft classes .


Aircraft lighter than air float in the air ( static lift ) and aircraft heavier than air fly by creating dynamic lift . A distinction can also be made between aircraft with and without their own propulsion:

There are also aircraft that do not fit into these categories because they use neither static nor dynamic lift (see section # Heavier than air ).

According to the Aviation Act, unmanned aerial vehicles, rescue parachutes and air sports equipment are aircraft, as are spacecraft, rockets and similar missiles, as long as they are in the airspace. Devices that cannot exceed 30 meters above ground or water (e.g. hovercraft ) are not considered aircraft.

Not all aircraft require approval. The Air Traffic Licensing Regulations, LuftVZO in § 1 and § 6 determine which ones require approval .

Definitions of individual subgroups of aircraft are internationally similar, but not identical. National classifications differ, for example, due to building regulations or weight limits.

History of the aircraft

The possibility of aviation “lighter than air” has long been known as hovering. B. ash rises in hot air. Building on this experience, the Montgolfier brothers built the first hot air balloon in 1783 . Aviation “heavier than air” only developed afterwards. It began with gliding flights in the 19th century . Albrecht Berblinger failed in 1811 when attempting to fly over the Danube due to adverse circumstances, despite a glider that was probably airworthy ; whereas the number of sliding structures completed by Otto Lilienthal from 1891 on is estimated to be at least 2000.

Lighter than air

Gas balloon

Aircraft with a lower density than air float in the air on a similar principle to how ships float in water . The reason is static buoyancy due to displacement, which is explained by the Archimedean principle . - "Lighter than air" is short for "lighter than the air displaced by the vehicle ". One speaks here of “driving” as opposed to “flying” the “heavier-than-air” aircraft.

The air is displaced by a less dense (specifically lighter) carrier gas such as helium , hydrogen or hot air . The lift arises from the difference between the weight of the entire vehicle and that of the air it displaces.

Gas balloons and hot air balloons have no drive and drift with the wind. Airships are aerodynamically shaped, equipped with engines and propellers and thus controllable. Impact airships (also called blimps ) are usually slightly heavier than air and require a small part of their propeller power for the remaining lift component.

Heavier than air

Alouette III helicopter

Aircraft with a higher density than air cannot fly due to static lift; their static lift is usually negligible.

With dynamic buoyancy

Instead, when flying, a lift force is usually generated by moving an airfoil in the air: the air currents cause dynamic lift . There are different types, the most important are airplanes with rigid wings and helicopters , which have at least one rotor (rotary wing). In helicopters, the driven rotor provides both the lift and the propulsive power; aircraft must have a minimum speed relative to the air in order to generate lift. There are also mixed forms such as vertical take-offs as tilt-wing aircraft or tilt-rotor aircraft . You can also find muscle power planes , gliders and paragliders .

Gyroplanes also have a rotor, which, however, is set in rotation passively by the airstream, and therefore need a separate engine or a towing device for propulsion. Among the helicopters with more than one rotor, the quadrocopter is gaining in importance, especially in model making and robotics.

Flying objects without static and without dynamic lift

Rockets and projectiles, for example, are heavier than air but do not fly with dynamic lift. Missiles , missile backpacks, and missile planes are propelled by recoil . However, rocket planes generally fly with dynamic lift. Other bodies fall through the airspace without buoyancy, for example parachutists with round canopy parachutes or re-entry spacecraft.

Aircraft inventory


31 As of December 2019, Germany had a total of 21,112 at the Federal Aviation Authority approved civil aircraft, to 4,210 aerodynamically controlled ultralight aircraft , 603 gyroplane and six ultralight helicopters in the air Sport offices of air sports associations, the German Aero Club and the German Ultralight Association registered are.

German aircraft have a registration number in the form D-XXXX. XXXX stands for four digits for gliders and four letters for all other aircraft. The letter following the 'D-' categorizes the type and, for some types, the weight of the aircraft, as listed in the following table.

Traffic approval of aircraft in Germany
License plate class description 2017 2018 2019
A. Aircraft> 20 t 753 740 749
B. Aircraft 14 - 20 t 37 39 42
C. Aircraft 5.7 - 14 t 219 216 223
E. single-engine aircraft <2 t 6,527 6,541 6,560
F. single-engine aircraft 2 - 5.7 t 174 191 202
G multi-engine aircraft <2 t 219 215 218
I. multi-engine aircraft 2 - 5.7 t 391 388 388
H Rotary wing aircraft 729 728 729
K Motor sailer 3,528 3,619 3,683
L. Airships 3 3 3
M. Microlights 4.133 4.171 4.210
M. Ultralight gyroplane 594 608 603
M. Ultralight helicopter - - 6th
O Balloons 1.102 1,080 1,078
(four digits) Gliders 7,383 7,304 7,237


According to Austro Control , the following number of aircraft are registered in Austria as of December 31, 2019:

Traffic approval of aircraft in Austria
License plate class description 2019
A, C single-engine aircraft up to 2 t, 1 to 3 seats 390
D, K single-engine aircraft up to 2 tons, more than 3 seats 261
E. single-engine aircraft 2 t to 5.7 t 18th
F. multi-engine aircraft up to 5.7 t 137
G Aircraft from 5.7 t to 14 t 61
H Aircraft from 14 t to 20 t 28
I, L Aircraft over 20 t 385
W. Watercraft and amphibious vehicles 1
X Rotary wing aircraft 219
Y unmanned aerial vehicles 3
B. Federal aircraft 20th
9001 - 9999 Motor sailer 167


According to the Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA), there were a total of 3284 civil aircraft registered in Switzerland on September 25, 2019:

Aircraft traffic approval in Switzerland
License plate class description 2016 2017 2018
A, I, J, V Aircraft over 5.7 t 279 254 262
D, F, G, H, K, L, R, S, Y Aircraft between 2.3 and 5.7 t 162 174 162
C - H, K - P, R - U, Y Aircraft under 2.3 t 1,382 1,358 1,349
X, Z helicopter 337 335 335
2000-2999 Motor sailer 249 245 245
four-digit number Gliders 658 625 599
B, Q Free balloons 339 329 323
Q Airships 8th 9 9

See also

Portal: Aviation  - Overview of Wikipedia content on aviation


  • Ernst Götsch: Introduction to aircraft technology . Deutscher Fachverlag, Frankfurt 1971, ISBN 3-87234-041-7 .
  • Ernst Götsch: Aircraft technology . Motorbuchverlag, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-613-02006-8 .
  • Jürgen Heermann: Why they stay up there . Insel Verlag: Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig 2000, ISBN 3-458-34320-2 .
  • Oskar Höfling : Physics, Volume II, Part 1, Mechanics - Heat . 15th edition. Ferd. Dümmlers Verlag, Bonn 1994, ISBN 3-427-41145-1 .
  • How does this work? Meyers Explained Technique, Volume 1 . Bibliographical Institute, Mannheim and Zurich 1963.
  • Klaus L. Schulte: Basics of flight. KLS Publ., Cologne 2012, ISBN 978-3-942095-22-8 .
  • Ashley Holt: Engineering Analysis of Flight Vehicles. Dover Publications, 2012, ISBN 978-0-486-67213-7 .

Web links

Commons : Aircraft  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Aircraft  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. see also § 11 Aviation Act (Austria) and Art. 2 Aviation Act (Switzerland)
  2. See § 1, Paragraph 2, Item 11 LuftVG: "other devices intended for the use of the airspace, provided they can be operated at heights of more than thirty meters above ground or water."
  3. ^ Sabine Höhler: Aviation research and aviation myth: Scientific balloon flight in Germany, 1880-1910 . Campus Verlag, 2001, ISBN 978-3-593-36840-5 , pp. 102ff (accessed on August 8, 2012).
  4. "Today it seems that the estimated total of 2000 flights is set too low ..." Werner Schwipps: Man flies - Lilienthal's flight attempts in historical recordings , Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Koblenz 1988, ISBN 3-7637-5838- 0 ; P. 117.
  5. Sven Groß: Tourism and Transport: Basics, Market Analysis and Strategies of Transport Companies . Oldenbourg Verlag, March 9, 2011, ISBN 978-3-486-70447-1 , pp. 166ff (accessed on August 8, 2012).
  6. Number of aircraft registered for traffic in Germany. In: Luftfahrt-Bundesamt, March 3, 2020, accessed on April 11, 2020 .
  7. Frank Einführer: Annual Report 2019 Air Sports Office. In: Deutscher Aero Club, January 29, 2020, p. 11 , accessed April 11, 2020 .
  8. a b Excerpt from the aircraft register of the Republic of Austria. (PDF) In: Austro Control, January 2020, accessed on April 11, 2020 .
  9. a b Civil Aviation Statistics. In: Federal Statistical Office, September 25, 2019, accessed on April 11, 2020 .