Reader Mail : Airlines Use Tape To Fix Planes?

Today’s reader mail addresses something many passengers notice, but tend to not think about … seemingly everyday items that are not what they appear when seen on board an aircraft.  This reader mail was spawned by today’s earlier blog post, Alaska Airlines’ Internal Note On An External Wing, and comes from Andrea J., in Manitoba, Canada.


Andrea writes “You wrote ‘Airlines often leave notes in magic marker, or on tape, or place tape over areas that need mechanical attention’, is this for real? Is this why I see duct tape on the side of [Air Canada] Jazz planes sometimes and also on the cargo bins?


Andrea, while I did write “Airlines often leave notes in magic marker, or on tape, or place tape over areas that need mechanical attention,” I also wrote “(there is specific tapes approved for internal use and external use).


Tape on the inside of an aircraft can vary for use, such as the tape securing an electrical repair around a smoke detector, or the tape holding a broken overhead bin shut.    Tape inside an aircraft, regardless of use, is not going to impact the safety of a flight.  There is some Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight on acceptable tapes (which other countries outside the U.S. make their own regulations on), such as P-51 flame retardant double sided tape for adhering carpet tiles to the floor of an aircraft


Tape on the outside of an aircraft may look like duct tape, but it is nothing like duct tape.   Tape seen on the outside of an aircraft, for dings, dents, tears, that are not structural damage to the aircraft, is typically P12L Tape, more commonly known as “Speed Tape.”


P12L tape, or Speed Tape, is an aluminum based tape that is resistant to solvents, flame resistant, isn’t impacted by UV degradation, is thermally conductive and reflects heat.   This tape may only be used on an aircraft if the holes it is coverage less than 2-inches is diameter and further than 3-inches from the edge of the damaged panel.


Speed tape is quite different than duct tape, or other aluminum tapes in another way as well. A roll of 2″ x 60 yard heavy duty duct tape will cost around US$6.00, a roll of 2-inch x 60 yard P-14 aluminum tape cost around US$10.00 … what will a roll of 2″ x 60 yard P12L speed tape set you back? Around US$178.00 a roll.


So next time you wonder why there is duct tape on the plane you’re setting foot on … know that it may look like duct tape, but the tape covering the ding in your ride, is nothing like duct tape.


Happy Flying!



One Comment

  1. I was recently on a Delta CRJ, and one of the boarding passengers damaged the tray table in the emergency exit row. The entire table portion of the unit came off, but the metal rails on either side remained, and they could not be secured in the ‘up position’ since the plastic portion of the table was gone. After 20 minutes, a maintenance guy came on board with a roll of duct tape and proceeded to secure the two metal arms in the up position so that they did not block the exit, and we proceeded on our way 🙂

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