Speed Tape Patches Prompt Viral Post


Air New Zealand is calming passenger fears after conducting a flight with a two-year-old Boeing 787-9 with large patches of speed tape adorning the upper side of the wings. According to the New York Post, Australian opera singer David Wakeham had an overwing window seat on a recent flight, snapped a picture of what he assumed was duct tape and added a sarcastic comment in a tweet. “When choosing your favourite airline, choose wisely,” he tapped. “Profits before safety.”

Well, the post naturally went viral with all the usual imaginative comments and Air New Zealand had to explain that it wasn’t duct tape after all. It was aviation-approved speed tape used to patch up peeling paint on the wings. The paint issue is an annoyance on some 787s and is thought to be the result of high exposure to ultraviolet radiation at altitude. Boeing, too, has had to explain the tape patches. “The peeling does not affect the structural integrity of the wing, and does not affect the safety of flight,” a Boeing spokesperson told aviation publication Simple, according to the Post.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Not surprised over the paint issue. With the amount of flex the 787 wing has in flight, I’m surprised any paint sticks. I believe Airbus has been having paint issues on the A350 also.

    • I recognize that carbon composites need protection from sunlight and that the tape might provide that. But I would also think that rattle-can spray-paint would also and be not nearly so obvious.

  2. Well, if the missing paint does not affect the structural integrity, then why is it there in the first place…. ? Just kidding, the UV-radiation is stronger at higher altitudes and of course there is a reason why they shield the surface from this UV-radiation. So why don’t they simply tell the truth, when it is so obvious. And why does the Airline not simply inform the passengers about such issues if they are in plain sight? It is really sad how the how we as “Mankind/Mensch” are being treated like and not even valued as cattle.

    • “And why does the Airline not simply inform the passengers about such issues if they are in plain sight?”

      And how do you know they didn’t? Maybe the pilot made an announcement before the plane left the gate.

      But that wouldn’t help getting clicks when the picture was posted.

  3. Good old Mark One Duct Tape. This stuff really works as a temporary fix for various airframe ailments. I had to fly a broken Piper Arrow IV from a nearby airport, where our military flying club president accidentally ran the plane into a perimeter fence, damaging the left wing leading edge, and ripping the pitot tube out of its mounts. We duct taped the pitot tube back into some semblance of a usable position, and took off toward the unknown. The airspeed was indicating, but I left the wheels down, and just set power and trim as normal. We got back without a scratch, and the tape held the tube solidly.

    • Not sure I’d want to admit to illegally operating an aircraft which you knew to be unairworthy, in a public forum.

      • As long as the airspeed was indicating, I think all the squares were filled for a legal flight. I was concerned about the gear, so I just left it extended.

      • If the FAA didn’t see it happen… and if no accident or incident resulted…. it didn’t happen.

        (Try telling a cop you saw someone speeding and you want him to write a citation…. and see what transpires.)

  4. You would think it would pay to be proactive with a PA from the Captain after the SLF is on board. It’s not like people are not going to notice…..and then haul out the smart phone…..and then you have to do damage control.

    • Have you ever considered trying to get back OFF and airplane after it’s left the gate?
      Imagine that after leaving the gate…You as a qualified pilot…notice something you consider UN-airworthy and decide you do not want to ride in this airplane. What would you or Could you do…?? (without gaining for yourself a Violation for “interfering” with the flight?

      Could you become SO CONCERNED as to Open an Exit? If so…YOU would GO TO JAIL!

      (Someone might respond that is what you might deserve. But the problem is, if you are correct you might otherwise go to the GraveYard and take everyone else onboard with you.)

      There’s something wrong with this system.

  5. “This is the captain speaking. Our airplane has tape on the wings because the builders used the wrong paint. Don’t worry it is the only known thing they got wrong.”

  6. I was at a small fly in once, grass strip. As the aircraft taxied out to leave, an Aeronca Chief let its wing overlap a fence and one of the fence metal posts cut a gash under the wing outer portion from front to back. The owner, an A&P/IA and the aircraft rebuilder, got some duct tape from the airport office, which actually color matched, ran a nice strip over the gash, seemed very happy with the fix, and flew away. I was impressed.