Fixed-wing aircraft, or aeroplanes, are aircraft that are capable of flight using wings for lift when in motion and propellers or jet engines for thrust.
Aeroplanes were first made available as controllable vehicles with the introduction of the Dodo in Grand Theft Auto III, which was significantly difficult to fly. Unlike helicopters, however, controllable aeroplanes do not enjoy consistent appearances since GTA III, with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City featuring only one aeroplane, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas featuring up to eleven such aircraft, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories featuring none at all without a third party mod or cheat device, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories featuring two aeroplanes.
Pilotable airplanes didn't return in Grand Theft Auto IV. Some do exist in Francis International Airport, but none are controllable. According to Rockstar, the city was too small to support airplanes. This was received negatively by the fans, and multiple mods featuring pilotable airplanes have been released since then.
Pilotable airplanes return in Grand Theft Auto V, and they range from small personal aircraft to large commercial airliners. Airplanes were included in GTA V to aid the player in traveling around the large State of San Andreas.
Aeroplanes are naturally aircraft that rely on their propellers or jet engines for horizontal speed, generating lift using their wings in the process. Controls while on the ground, however, are often heavy and are only effective at low speeds due to their weight and little traction from the landing gears. As such, aeroplanes often require a stretch of flat surface in order to take off or land, making the presence of airport runways in games they appear in useful in this regard. The only exception to the rule is the Hydra in GTA San Andreas, which is capable of both conventional and vertical take off, flying, and landing by the simple act of adjusting the direction of its jet thrusters.
Since their introduction in GTA III, aeroplanes possess a wide range of controls: Including working ailerons, elevators, and rudders, allowing them to roll, pitch, and yaw, and retractable landing gears in GTA San Andreas and GTA V, which impacts their aerodynamics and speed. In their initial appearances in GTA III and GTA Vice City, certain aerobatic stunts (i.e. barrel rows or loops) are very difficult to execute (likely because the aeroplanes featured in these games, the Dodo and Skimmer, are underpowered), a limitation rectified in GTA San Andreas, which allows aeroplanes to perform said stunts and are even showcased during Flying School, where a number of aeroplane stunts must be executed by the player.
The size of aeroplanes vary greatly throughout the series, with the Dodo and Stuntplane being the smallest, and the AT-400 and Andromada being the largest aeroplanes and aircraft in general. Airplanes in the series have encompassed monoplanes and biplanes, as well as seaplanes.
Due to inherent limitations, the actual controls for aeroplanes in GTA V are different to real life. The throttle works like the accelerator on a car rather than genuine aeroplane throttles, although there is a limited degree of cruise control. There are no autopilot or autothrottle systems in any of the aeroplanes in the game.
Initially, aeroplanes in GTA III and GTA Vice City are relatively resistant to damage, capable of hitting solid objects head on at full speed and sustaining only the same amount of damage a road vehicle may have from a similar crash. Like helicopters, aeroplanes will also cease to function outright in water if they do not have pontoons (i.e. the Skimmer).
Damage to airplanes was heavily improved in GTA San Andreas, including realism in the damage engine of aeroplanes by allowing certain portions of a plane to malfunction and weaken controls or engine power (indicated by smoke and flapping aeroplane parts) if they lightly hit an object, and having an aircraft explode on impact if flown head on to any solid object or water. Also, planes can catch fire as a result of heavy damage, and, like most other vehicles, this is a sign of the aircraft's imminent destruction, although aeroplanes can sustain fire for a much longer period of time before exploding. Despite these refinements, the models of all aeroplanes still remain generally unchanged despite heavy damage or high-speed collisions (apart from flapping parts).
In GTA Vice City Stories, the last GTA game to feature controllable airplanes before V, damage differed between the two pilotable airplanes: The Skimmer is considerably weak, sometimes destroyed at first impact with any building, while the Biplane might easily stand such impact and suffer almost no damage. None of them has semi-realistic degradation like San Andreas.
In GTA V, airplanes have a much more realistic damage system as it is possible to remove control surfaces and burst aircraft tires. Much like cars, the entire body of airplanes can be deformed and dented based on the direction and force of the damage. If a plane is damaged too much, its engines will fail and the plane will glide to earth. In addition, wings, horizontal stabilizers and vertical stabilizers can be detached from the airplane after a collision. Unlike GTA San Andreas, it is possible to belly land with the gear up.
- In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, if you fly over a no fly zone such as Area 69 (or the Easter Basin Naval Station during Vertical Bird) in an aeroplane and a SAM missile is fired at you, your airplane will rapidly beep as a missile warning sign. You will also see a small red blip on your minimap so you know how close the missile is to your airplane, so you can time your evasive maneuvers.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has a unique and sometimes irritating random factor in that planes will occasionally fall out of the sky and crash, usually around mountains and skyscrapers. The crashes generally occur close enough to Carl to cause damage to (or often destroy) the vehicle he may be driving in.
- In GTA San Andreas, in some places at Mulholland, aircraft usually crash, almost level with the hilltops. When the 'Deadly Vehicle' cheat is used, with correct timing, it is possible to steal these aircraft before they blow up, after they've crashed.
- The Atomic Blimp in Grand Theft Auto V is classified as a fixed-wing aircraft in the game's internal files despite being controlled like a helicopter. The reason for this is presumably so Rockstar could add moving control surfaces to the blimp.
- In GTA V, flying an aircraft too far out away from Los Santos will result in the aircraft automatically shutting down, making the player crash into the water.
- In GTA V, the player is able to shut down the engines of any airplane in mid-flight by reducing their power and acceleration completely (for jet-powered airplanes, this term is known as a compressor stall). While the engines are off, the player is able to glide the plane for a short distance, but attempting to pitch the airplane upwards will result in the aircraft going into an aerodynamic stall. However, the player is able to turn the engines back on and recover.