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Aviation designation

Work as a group to aim for the targets and guess the aircraft designations you know.

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You’ll need

  • Pens or pencils
  • Scrap paper
  • Scissors
  • Rope or string, optional
  • Three different colours of bean bag, with at least one bean bag per group
  • 15 hula-hoops or more, depending on how many designations you look at
RAF aircraft designations
PDF – 120.4KB

Before you begin

  • Write down 15 or more of the aircraft designations from the ‘RAF aircraft designations’ and cut them out. These need to be big and clear enough to be seen across the activity area. Here are some examples you could use:











Fighter aircraft


Army helicopter


High fighter


Bomber aircraft


Bomber Interdictor


Helicopter rescue


Commercial aircraft


Electronic surveillance


Maritime reconnaissance




Fighter attack




Miscellaneous (like seaplanes and tankers)


Ground attack


Training glider


  • Spread out the hula-hoops at one end of the activity area, and place one designation in the middle of each. If there’s not enough hoops, make hoop shapes with string or rope instead.
  • With rope or string make a line at the other end of the activity area. This needs to be far enough away from the boundary for everyone to wait behind it, but also far enough from the hoops to make the game challenging.

Run the activity

  1. Everyone should split into three teams. Each team should wait behind the line at that end of the activity area, opposite the hoops.
  2. With the ‘RAF aircraft designations’, go through the listed aircraft designations with everyone. Make it clear that each aircraft has a different designation depending on its function.
  1. Have everyone stand in their teams behind the line and give them their bean bag(s). Explain that they must throw their bean bag and get it inside one of the hoops. If they succeed, that group should agree upon what kind of aircraft the designation represents. Groups should try and correctly guess as many designations as they can.
  1. Begin the game. Groups should take turns to throw, with a different person throwing each time. If a thrower misses, retrieve the bean bag and the next group can go. If a group gets a designation wrong, retrieve the bean bag and the next group can go. If a group gets the designation right, they should remove that designation and hoop from the game and place it with their team behind the game line.
  2. Continue until all of the hoops have been guessed correctly. See who got the most designations at the end.


Designations are an easy way to see quickly what an aircraft is for. Why might this be useful for air traffic controllers and air marshallers, who might see an aircraft land on their runway from some distance away? The designation can easily be printed in large letters and numbers on the aircraft body, so it’s clear what the craft’s purpose is. They’re also short and easy to remember, meaning they can be attached to aircraft names and identified quickly from radio communications.

It was important to work together to make each successful throw count. That meant everyone needed to play to their strengths. Those who were better at throwing could be relied upon to score bullseyes in the hoops, while those who knew the designations could secure those hoops for their team. How did you communicate and pool your talents to give your team the best chance of winning?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed. Take a look at our guidance on running active games safely.

Confident designators could complete the game individually or in pairs to demonstrate their knowledge.

  • Make sure the hoops can be reached by each player.
  • Make sure groups reach a shared consensus on their guesses, with everyone’s input.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Have a go at I spy something that flies and see if you can match the aircraft in that activity with the designations in this one.

If there are aircraft types the group are particularly interested in, allow them to choose the relevant designations to use in this activity.