Competitive Balance: The planes are fairly well balanced against one another, though some might perform better in certain game modes. This is also likely why the jets offered in the DLC aren't flat-out better then the vanilla prop-driven planes.
Convection Schmonvection: Part of the "Heatwave" track is spent flying mere feet above a river of lava. While it doesn't damage your plane, it does cause heat distortion on your screen if you fly really low.
Fragile Speedster: The twin-engine, push-prop Speedster Pro 2 has excellent top speed an acceleration, but very little armor. The triple-engine, jet-assisted Stallion Turbo is even faster and better armored, but has far worse acceleration.
Jack of All Stats: The Cooper Evo, an unassuming single-engine, straight-wing craft. Surprisingly effective in the right hands. The Skyline Mk II also falls here, with lower boost power and maneuverability then the Cooper but greater top speed and armor.
Mighty Glacier: The aptly-named twin-engine Titan boasts the highest armor of any plane. It's also slow and turns like a semi, though it possesses very strong boost. The PV Warbird is a lesser example, having slightly less armor but much greater maneuverability.
Nitro Boost: Every plane is equipped with a boost meter that is filled by performing stunts, "burning" Power Ups or damaging other planes. Planes with low top speed often have high boost power to compensate, like the Spark and Triwing Vintage.
More Dakka: The Cannon Power-Up. Against long range targets, it's actually more effective then the homing rockets, which can be fooled into hitting walls rather easily. And it can't be intercepted by shockwaves.
Shockwave Stomp: Well, not a stomp really. The Shockwave Power-Up lets out an EMP blast that damages and slows nearby planes, and can destroy mines and incoming rockets.
Stuff Blowing Up: The planes explode rather spectacularly when destroyed or crashed, and certain objects in the environment explode and fall on the racers when it would be dramatically appropriate- like on the last lap.