It is not just a duct tape

A duct tape strip, nothing aesthetic or of quality image on a plane. Some people have noticed this tapes on their flights causing astonishment and at first glance it seems that the tape is joining paper parts, not giving confidence. People were wondering if this is a good practice, especially if we talk about something that is going to fly.

Flap Track Fairing with Tape. Source: http://www.salon.com

First of all, we can see the silver colour, indicating that is reflective, common applied and useful on plane surfaces. The tape is made of Dead Soft aluminum and the name of this tape is Aluminum Foil Tape but within the aircraft mechanic slang is known as Speed Tape

Aircraft Mechanic repairing with Speed Tape. Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

The speed tape used on planes has aerospace certification and controls the application. Therefore, is not a duct tape, their fabrication standards meet Federal Aviation Administration rules and SAE aerospace material specification, so the safety requirements are high as well as the cost. These specifications establish the requirements at which the tape must operate involving pressure, temperature and environment conditions as experienced on flight.

The main applications are:

  • Aircraft paint stripping maskant.
  • Moisture barrier in “white goods” appliances.
  • General purpose heat reflector and heat dissipator.
  • Mechanically hold wires and cooling coils in “white goods” appliances.
  • Repair tears on truck trailers and aircraft.
  • Splicing of thin gauge foils.
  • General purpose holding, patching, sealing applications – indoors and out.
  • Applied during aircraft stripping operations, sealing plastic window seams, and masking areas where a direct flame is applied for limited periods of time.
Aircraft with speed tape in nacelles. Source: miniliew.blogspot.com

Having seen the applications, it is convenient to say that they are put on non-critical parts, that means non-structural components. And it is used to cover or protect sealant as well as aerodynamic seal. In addition, these are for temporary repairs or works. That means the applications of this tape is highly controlled by regulators and the engineering department of aircraft operators. Therefore, is safe to fly with this speed tape, always meeting the requirements.

Aircraft repaired with speed tape: Source: viewfromthewing.com

Why are these tapes used? The versatility, and for fast repairs, that’s where its name comes from. But as said before it is controlled, and it must be. The overuse will lead to get out of standard practices, be a violation of rules and fines may arise from aviation authorities.