1851, originally in reference to airships and balloons, from air (n.1) + craft (n.); a term from boating, as were many early aviation words. Of airplanes from 1907 and since 1930s exclusively of them. Aircraft carrier is attested from 1919 (H.M.S. Hermes, launched September 1919, was the first ship to be built from the hull up as an aircraft carrier).
1. The onslaught of orders should keep aircraft manufacturers busy for some time.
2. Since its inception the company has produced 53 different aircraft designs.
3. A light aircraft crash-landed on a putting green yesterday.
4. He had returned to England in an aircraft carrier no less.
5. The airlines have invested enormous sums in new, quieter aircraft.