Does this picture show an airplane wing being held together by duct tape?

By January 25, 2024 Transport

This post on X (formerly Twitter) has garnered over 36 thousand views several hours. The poster claims that their friend’s plane is “literally duct taped,” accompanied by a picture which depicts a commercial airplane with what appears to be duct tape on its wing.Duct tape is a recognisable silver-grey, fabric-backed tape that is waterproof and durable. It is often used for various adhesive applications but, as responses to this claim show, is perceived as insufficient and alarming for airplane repairs. We looked further into the use of duct tape in aviation and based on our research, found that the tape in the picture is highly unlikely to be duct tape and very likely to instead be a product called speed tape.

Speed tape (also called aviation tape) is made of aluminium and is widely used in minor aircraft repairs as a reliable temporary fix. It is often used to patch superficial or non-structural components on an aircraft (which is why it is commonly seen on airplane wings) and costs significantly more than duct tape despite their visual similarities. (Speed tape on the left, Duct tape on the right)

Speed tape is specifically engineered for use in the aviation industry. In particular, it has stronger adhesive strength which allows it to remain in place while aircraft are moving at high speeds as well as resistance to different extreme temperatures and pressures. Our research also shows that different aviation regulatory bodies worldwide have approved its use.On the other hand, according to previous interviews from aircraft technicians and experts, duct tape is not used for airplane repairs and does not meet the strict standards that exist when it comes to aircraft maintenance.

Therefore, although no confirmation from the airline carrier of the specific plane in this claim image exists (as of the time of writing), we give the claim that duct tape was used to repair a commercial aircraft in the claim image a rating of likely false.

We also noticed several precious fact-checks on similar claims that have been carried in previous years – for instance in 2022 and 2015 – after concerned passengers posted pictures of speed tape repairs on social media

In light of recent airplane-related incidents that have caused anxiety on social media (such as Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes being grounded after a door plug was blown out mid-air), claims such as these can easily spark panic and worry. However, while concern over aircraft is understandable, it is important to first fact-check claims in order to safely land on informed, research-based conclusions.

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