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Speed tape is an adhesive tape developed for the aviation industry, allowing people to make minor repairs to aircraft with this product to hold components of a plane until more extensive and permanent repairs can be performed. Anyone who has ever looked outside the window of an aircraft and spotted what appears to be duct tape has seen speed tape in action. Although it superficially looks like regular tape, it has a few special properties making it suitable for aviation uses, and its usage is authorized by aviation authorities.
This product is an aluminumized tape. It is designed to be able to endure a range of temperatures, expanding and contracting along with the components it is attached to. When aircraft are flying high and conditions are very cold, the tape will shrink and hold its position. In warmer climes, like airports in the tropics, the tape will expand without dislodging.
Also known as high speed tape, this product is designed to resist ultraviolet radiation and solvents, staying in place even in harsh weather conditions. It is also reflective and heat conductive. As the name suggests, the adhesive backing is intended to perform even when planes are moving at very high speeds. This tape can be used on commercial aircraft, as well as private planes, and it can withstand very trying flying conditions. It was originally developed for military use, where the need for quick repairs can be critical and aircraft maintenance personnel may not have ready access to a fully equipped hangar.
Legal restrictions on the use of this adhesive tape vary. Generally, it is designed for temporary repairs to an aircraft. Maintenance personnel will need to inspect the components carefully when the plane is on the ground to make sure the speed tape is holding, and plans need to be made to get repairs underway. For an emergency, when a plane needs to be able to fly quickly and there is no time for repairs, the tape can be an adequate measure.
This product is available through aviation suppliers and it is important to purchase tapes rated for aircraft. It tends to be very expensive and supplies at hangars are guarded closely to make sure it is used appropriately and to minimize waste. Similar products are also used on race cars, and pit stop kits often include a roll of speed tape for quick repairs during the race to keep a car running.
As an Aircraft A+P Mechanic I can tell you that speed tape is not used to hold things on. It is most often used to cover minor damage. This includes dents, common wind erosion wear or damage to fiberglass/composite panels and fairings (air at speed is similar to a sandblaster), and the covering of missing/damaged aerodynamic seals for fuel efficiency.
It is also used to cover sealant that is still curing. Some sealants take days to fully set and harden, and the speed tape prevents the introduction of water and the force of the air from deforming the sealant. This is often seen around aircraft windshields. The sealant that it covers is for airflow and weather protection, the pressure seal
is normally part of the windshield assembly (prefab metal frame that holds the laminar tempered glass or other material). An aircraft must pass a ground pressurization check for leaks before speed tape is applied.
I see comments all over the web where passengers (and even some pilots who should know better) say that "the tape that was holding window/air pressure/wing was about to fall off" and how worried they were.
Speed tape is never used in a situation where the loss of the tape would result in a safety of flight situation. I know many pilots have declared an emergency because of loose tape, and all I have to say on that is pilots are trained to fly airplanes, not fix them.
I hope that in most instances speed tape is only used in dire situations, like in some military cases and in some race car cases.
In situations like a commercial airlines, I do not see why this speed tape would have to be used, because it is not that important for the aircraft to fly in the first place.
Maybe in very minor malfunctions speed tape can be used on a commercial aircraft, but not for any serious commercial aircraft malfunctions.
Speed tape seems like a good thing handy to have in dire situations, but I hope that people who maintain aircraft do not use this as the lazy way out of fixing an aircraft problem.
After reading this, it makes me want to be more aware of the outside and inside condition of a plane. It would make me pretty wary to see more than a little speed tape on an aircraft. I think I would be worried the whole time about mine and other people's safety if I saw a lot of speed tape on an aircraft.
I know that this is probably just used in very desperate situations, and is made to withstand a lot, but it still scares me to think that aircraft problems could be basically covered up instead of fixed with this speed tape.
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