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Prefix letters for US and Canadian manufacturers' designations

Stargazer2006

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  • Having noticed some license on the part of a few forum members in the use of prefix letters for many aircraft types (something that could be tolerated on another site I guess, but not on this forum, which serves as a definitive reference to many), I wish to state here clearly which companies DID use hyphenated prefix letters and which didn't.

    In the following, I have focused only on well-known companies and/or on numbering systems that were both lasting enough and consistent enough to be worthy of mention. If I omitted anything, please let me know.


    BEECHCRAFT
    • Plain model numbers (prefixes/suffixes added for variants)
    • PD- for experimental aircraft
    The use of the prefix B- for Beechcraft is always WRONG.

    BELL
    • Plain model numbers (prefixes/suffixes added)
    • D- numbers for projects
    • AB- for Agusta-Bell
    The use of the prefix B- for Bell is always WRONG.

    BOEING
    • Plain model numbers
    • B- prefix sometimes added by customer airlines
    The use of the prefix B- for inhouse Boeing designations is always WRONG.

    BOEING HELICOPTERS
    • Plain model numbers, sometimes V- or BV-
    V- and BV- prefixes are not used systematically by Boeing and should be used with caution.

    CANADAIR
    • CL- for all models

    CESSNA
    • Plain model numbers (prefixes/suffixes added)
    • C- (very early types only)
    • CH- briefly used for Helicopters division
    The use of the prefix C- for most Cessna aircraft is WRONG.

    CONVAIR (CONSOLIDATED-VULTEE)
    • Plain model numbers (Convair, Consolidated, Stinson)
    • CV- for some commercial designations
    • V- for Vultee models (perhaps not systematic)
    • GD- for General Dynamics models
    The use of the prefix CV- for inhouse Convair designations is always WRONG.

    CURTISS
    • Plain model numbers (Buffalo) (letter suffixes for variants)
    • C- for engines
    • CR- for Curtiss-Robertson
    • CW- for Curtiss-Wright (Saint-Louis) (letter suffixes for variants)
    • P- for projects
    The use of the prefix CW- for non-Saint-Louis designations is always WRONG.

    DE HAVILLAND CANADA
    • DHC- for all models

    DOUGLAS
    • Plain model numbers (letter suffixes for variants)
    • D- for projects
    • DB- for early bomber designations
    • DC- for commercial designations
    • DS- for El Segundo based projects
    The use of the prefix D- in place of DS- (and reversely) is WRONG.
    [sub]The use of the prefixes D- and DS- was not systematic, and when in doubt they had better be omitted.

    FAIRCHILD
    • M- for all models (letter or numeral suffixes for variants)
    • KR- for Kreider-Reisner models
    • GA- for General Aviation models
    • FR-/FRC- for Fairchild Republic models
    • FH- for Fairchild Hiller models
    • FA-/FS-/SA- for Swearingen models
    • SF- for Saab-Fairchild
    The use of the prefix F- for Fairchild designations is always WRONG.

    FOKKER
    • F- for Dutch models
    • AF- for Atlantic (American) Fokker models
    • GA- for General Aviation models
    • FH- for Fairchild-marketed models

    GOODYEAR
    • GA- for aircraft models
    • GZ- for lighter-than-air models

    GRUMMAN
    • G- for all models
    • GA-/AA- for American Aviation division

    KAMAN
    • K- for all models

    KEYSTONE-LOENING (HUFF-DALAND)
    • HD- for Huff-Daland models
    • K- for Keystone-Loening models

    LOCKHEED
    • Plain model numbers (numeral prefixes/letter suffixes for variants)
    • L- for early designs (pre-1955)
    • L- for some commercial designations
    • CL- for later designs (1955 onwards)
    • GL- for Lockheed-Georgia models
    • LG-/LGC-/LGM-/LGS-/LGX- for Lockheed-Georgia models
    • V- for Vega models
    The use of the prefix L- for inhouse Lockheed models numbers is always WRONG.

    MARTIN
    • Plain model numbers (letter prefixes for variants)
    The use of the prefix M- for Martin designations is always WRONG.

    McDONNELL
    • Plain model numbers
    The use of the prefix M- for McDonnell designations is always WRONG.

    McDONNELL DOUGLAS
    • MD- for commercial designations
    The use of the prefix M- for inhouse McDonnell Douglas designations is WRONG.

    MOONEY
    • M- for all models (Culver, Mooney)

    NORTH AMERICAN
    • NA- for all charge numbers
    • NR- for later Rockwell charge numbers
    • GA- for early General Aviation models
    Charge numbers in NA-/NR- refer not to models but to orders, and should therefore be used cautiously.

    NORTHROP
    • N- for all post-1940 models
    • RP- for Radioplane division
    • NS- for Northrop specifications (see next post below)
    • NV- for Northrop Ventura division
    • P- for projects
    The use of the prefix N- for early (Gamma, Delta, Alpha, Beta) models is WRONG.

    PIASECKI
    • PV- for all early models
    • PD-, PH- for later models
    • Plain model numbers for new (non-Vertol) company

    PITCAIRN
    • PA- for all models

    REPUBLIC (and SEVERSKY)
    • AP- for all Army/Air Force models
    • EP- for all export models
    • NP- for Navy models

    RUTAN / SCALED COMPOSITES
    • Plain model numbers

    SIKORSKY
    • S- for all models
    • VS- for Vought-Sikorsky models
    • WS- for Westland-Sikorsky models
    • DS- for early projects

    STEARMAN
    • Plain model numbers (letter prefixes/suffixes for variants)

    THORPE
    • T- for all models

    VOUGHT
    • V- for all models
    • VE- for very early models (1917-1922)
    • VS- for Vought-Sikorsky models
 

aim9xray

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With respect to Northrop - NS refers to a document series of Northrop Specifications.

As envisioned, each Northrop Model (for instance: N-9 Flying Wing) would be accompanied by a similarly numbered specification document (NS-9). This one-to-one correspondence system fell apart relatively quickly due to design and specification permutations and soon the NS specification numbers were not linked to the N model numbers.

However, I would not be surprised to see internal documentation using NS numbers to more specifically identify a unique configuration of a "N" model, as a bit of shorthand. I do not have references in front of me, but do recall that the N-69 Snark (models N-69A through E) had multiple NS's assigned, including that for the unbuilt reconnaissance (XRSM-62A) variant.
 

Stargazer2006

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aim9xray said:
With respect to Northrop - NS refers to a document series of Northrop Specifications.

As envisioned, each Northrop Model (for instance: N-9 Flying Wing) would be accompanied by a similarly numbered specification document (NS-9). This one-to-one correspondence system fell apart relatively quickly due to design and specification permutations and soon the NS specification numbers were not linked to the N model numbers.

However, I would not be surprised to see internal documentation using NS numbers to more specifically identify a unique configuration of a "N" model, as a bit of shorthand. I do not have references in front of me, but do recall that the N-69 Snark (models N-69A through E) had multiple NS's assigned, including that for the unbuilt reconnaissance (XRSM-62A) variant.

Thanks a lot for clarifying this point. Up to now it was always a little complicated. Latest NS- that I had in my list was NS-41 (YRB-49A) but I didn't know there had been later use for that prefix. Also I had info about XP-61 being N-8, YP-61 being NS-8, and P-61A being NS-8A... so I guess it was a wrong interpretation of the N- vs. NS- system.
 

aim9xray

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Also I had info about XP-61 being N-8, YP-61 being NS-8, and P-61A being NS-8A... so I guess it was a wrong interpretation of the N- vs. NS- system.

Not wrong, just incomplete. Instead of thinking of the designations as being linear, think more of a matrix of [in this case] three elements...

Army N NS
XP-61 N-8 (NS-8 presumed)
XP-61 N-8 NS-8
P-61A N-8 NS-8A
(...and so on....)
 

aim9xray

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Stargazer2006 said:
BOEING
  • Plain model numbers
  • B- prefix sometimes added by customer airlines
The use of the prefix B- for inhouse Boeing designations is always WRONG.

The "B" prefix applied to Boeing-built airliners is an "external to Boeing" type designation applied and controlled by the ICAO and used in the airline industry (most notably Air Traffic Control). For instance, the Boeing 747-400 is designated the B744; the Airbus A-380-800 is the A388. Airlines tend to use concatonated versions of aircraft designations as well; the Boeing 737-300 series being called the 733 in everyday use, etc.

For some examples of the ICAO designations, please see: http://www.icao.int/anb/ais/8643/index.cfm
 

Stargazer2006

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Thanks! I know about the ICAO codes but I didn't mention them in the list. Besides, they are NON-hyphenated "B" prefixes, contrary to the ones I've listed... When I spoke about airliner-given designations, I was thinking along the lines of B-307, B-377, B-707, B-747, which were never official Boeing designations but strictly used by airlines as short ways to designate their aircraft alongside the DC-, MD- or L- airliners they had.
 

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