A controversy over so-called airplane speed tape has emerged this week in Australia, reminding me of a story I wrote a few years ago on the same topic.
A concerned passenger snapped the following pictures on an Air New Zealand 787-9 in Sydney (SYD) and posted it on Twitter. That tweet went viral, leading to a bevy of concerns over the airworthiness of the aircraft in question.
Air New Zealand noted the issue was cosmetic in nature and was common and widespread around the world. A Boeing spokesperson noted:
“The peeling does not affect the structural integrity of the wing, and does not affect the safety of flight.”
Recall the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said in 2020 that the Boeing 787-9 is particularly “prone to paint adhesion failures due to Ultra Violet (UV) ray damage.” This causes peeling which speed tape covers up. Worldwide aviation regulators have consistently noted that this issue does not adversely impact the safety of the aircraft in any way.
The original article, concerning the same issue on the same aircraft type, is below.
Do airlines use duct tape on an aircraft as a “temporary fix” for items in need of quick repair? No, it’s called airplane speed tape and much different…and also perfectly safe.
Airplane Speed Tape
FlyerTalk member ContinentalFan posted the following pictures of a United Airlines 787-9 with a similar question.
Looking at the pictures, it certainly resembles duct tape.
But let not your heart be troubled. This is not a shoddy repair job or United trying to cut corners. Instead, this is speed tape. As Wikipedia defines it:
Speed tape is an aluminum pressure-sensitive tape used to do minor repairs on aircraft and racing cars. It is used as a temporary repair material until a more permanent repair can be carried out. It has an appearance similar to duct tape, for which it is sometimes mistaken, but its adhesive is capable of sticking on an airplane fuselage or wing at high speeds, hence the name.
Apparently, it reflects UV light, can contract or expand in different temperatures, is flame retardant (at least for a short period) and resistant to water. Perhaps that is why it can run hundreds of dollars just for a single roll.
The use of this tape is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration and is perfectly safe. Still, there is something psychologically discomforting about seeing tape on a plane.
Are you bothered by the use of tape to repair an aircraft?