Skip to main content

I spy something that flies

Work as a team to identify the aircraft from their pictures. Can you get all 50?
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Scissors
  • Whiteboard pens
  • Sticky tack
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Pens or pencils
  • A4 whiteboard or scrap paper
  • Projector (optional)
  • Computer (optional)
Aircraft recognition list and pictures
PDF – 1.9MB
Buddy the dog is dressed as an aeroplane, and zooms through the clouds.

Before you begin

  • Any sky-gazers working towards their Air Spotter Activity Badge should be informed before you begin that they’ll need to be able to correctly identify 38 out of the 50 aircraft included in this activity. There will be a mix of cargo and people-carrying aircraft and military aircraft, some from the past and some that are still used today.
  • For the activity, you’ll need two copies of each of the 50 aircraft images on the ‘Aircraft recognition list and pictures’.
  • Set up tables and chairs for each group. There should be five or six, depending on numbers. Put a copy of the aircraft list from the ‘Aircraft recognition list and pictures’ on each group’s table, as well as a whiteboard or scrap paper and something to write with.
  • On some spare scrap paper, draw a table to keep score, with a column or row for each team, and columns or rows for the 50 aircraft images.

Aircraft discovery

  1. Explain that everyone will be looking at some images of aircraft and testing their knowledge of the features that help identify them. Allow 10 minutes for everyone to go around and have a look at the images. Have them feedback whether they saw something that they’ve never seen before, or something they recognised. Discuss the types of aircraft, what they’re used for and what cargo they might carry.
  1. Split into five groups and give each group 10 images to examine together. In their groups, everyone may now discuss what they think the names of any of their aircraft are. They should also look at key features like relative size, nose shape, locations of engines, engine types and wing shapes.
  2. Now, have one person from each group sit at a different table, to form five new teams. Gather up the aircraft images or project them somewhere visible to everyone. Explain that you’ll be showing each group one of the images and that they’ll have one minute per image to write down the name of it. Groups should use their aircraft list for reference.
  1. Begin showing the pictures in the order they’re shown on the answer sheet. After each one, give everyone a minute to quietly work out their answers in their groups, write them down on the whiteboard or scrap paper and, when everyone’s ready, hold their answer up.
  1. The person leading the activity, a Young Leader or helper should keep score using the table you drew earlier. Record the answer for each team as you go.
  2. Continue until you’ve gone through all 50 images. While a Young Leader or helper tots up the scores, redistribute the aircraft images to the groups at their tables. On whiteboards or leftover scrap paper, groups should examine each image and note down the features of the aircraft, including: wing shape, nose shape, colour, markings, engine type/size, propeller/rotors, relative size (small, medium or large will do) and anything else interesting.
  3. Groups can now take turns to feed back to the rest of the group what they noted down. Ideally, one person should champion one or two aircraft each.
  4. Announce the results from the image identification quiz and/or aircraft snap.


There are so many different aircraft with different purposes that it can be tricky to identify them all. Being able to pick out those tell-tale features and details can be a big help. Which features in particular helped you to correctly identify the aircraft? Was there anything that was similar on all or lots of the aircraft? Were there any clues on your list of aircraft names?

Everyone had to work together closely to get at least 38/50 right. Groups needed their collective brain power to analyse the images, remember familiar details and come up with names that made sense. How did you give everyone a say in what your answer would be for each image? Did you delegate someone to look at the list, someone to look at wings, someone to look at colours/markings and so on, or did you go with the flow? Can you think of another method that might’ve helped you better identify the aircraft? Remember, you can always try this again at home, or in another session.



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