Condor Boeing 767-300ER. Photo by Oliver Holzbauer CC 2.0

Back in the day when I first started looking at planes I had the hardest time distinguishing between the Boeing 767 and 777 because they just looked so similar to me. When people try plane spotting for the first time, they typically have to rely on very concrete and noticeable features of each aircraft to distinguish them from others (for example the number of engines or doors present) before they are able get a feel for each aircraft and recognize them based off more abstract features such as length and curvature. My trick for differentiating between the Boeing 767 and 777 was the fact that the 777 has 3 rows of wheels on each of its two landing gear struts, whereas its little brother only has 2 rows. Obviously this wasn’t a foolproof system, as it won’t work when I don’t have a clear view of the landing gear. Fortunately, here are a few better tips and tricks that I’ve come up with over the years to help you better distinguish between the two.

Labelled photograph of an ANA Boeing 767-300ER showing major distinguishing features.

Though it may not work in every situation, my strategy of differentiating between the two by looking at their landing is definitely the easiest method and works well for beginning plane spotters and people who have trouble noticing minor details and differences. There are definitely more advanced methods of distinction, however they may take time to master.

Nose shape

It may not be particularly evident at first, but once you compare the two aircraft side-by-side you’ll see that the Boeing 777 has a sleeker and more swept-back nose than the 767, similar to that of a bullet train. Essentially the nose of the 777 is more pointy, and the cockpit window on the 777 is farther away from the closest door than on the 767.

Engine size

Though the types of engines fitted on different variants of the 777 range in size and power, for the most part they are thicker and bulkier than those on the 767, as after all the 777 is a larger aircraft and needs more thrust. The engines fitted on the 767 appear to be long and cylindrical whereas those on the 777 are stubby and large in diameter.


This method isn’t very foolproof either as not all Boeing 767’s have winglets. Some airframes have them and others don’t, which is quite unpredictable makes things a little harder for the spotters. However, not a single 777 has winglets they aren’t part of the design or offered as an option to airlines. Therefore, if you see an aircraft that looks like a 777 but has winglets, you can be sure that it isn’t.

APU exhaust shape

This last method is quite a good one for differentiating as it’s not very subjective (unlike nose shape or engine size) and works even from behind the aircraft. It might not be very evident from the photos I’ve provided, but the very rear part of the fuselage (where the APU exhaust is located) on the Boeing 777 is flattened like a fish tail, whereas the same area on the 767 is round and conical throughout.

Labelled photograph of an ANA Boeing 777-300 showing major distinguishing features.

It may seem impossibly difficult to differentiate between all of these planes that you see at the airport, especially the Boeing 767 and 777. However, I can assure you that it will get easier and easier the more time you spend looking at airplanes. If you really put your heart to it, soon this will be nothing more than second nature, and you’ll be able to identify aircraft without needing to think about any of the stuff that I just mentioned.