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Airline explains why plane wing covered in duct tape after photo goes viral

Duct tape on a plane initially thought to be holding its wing together has been revealed as having a far less questionable purpose.

The tape made for an alarming sight what was thought to be a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner for Australian opera singer David Wakeham who last week shared a photo to Twitter, where it later went viral.

“When choosing your favourite airline, choose wisely. Profits before safety,” his post, which was also shared to Reddit, read.

While at the time it was joked the tape was used for “temporary repairs”, it has since been identified as commonly used “speed tape”, which was most likely used to cover peeling paint, according to CheckMate, a weekly fact checking newsletter from RMIT and ABC.

The Boeing 787-9 planes have been identified as being “prone to paint adhesion failures due to Ultra Violet (UV) ray damage”, a 2020 report from the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.

The tape made for an alarming sight what was thought to be a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner after an Australian opera singer pointed out the tape on Twitter.

More recently, an Air New Zealand spokesperson told Stuff paint peeling on the wings of Boeing 787-9 aircraft was a global problem.

The seemingly widespread issue has been played down by Boeing, which has made attempts to alleviate concerns of travellers about the tape suggesting issues with structural integrity.

“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.

The only potential risk posed by peeling paint was to airline staff when using “vacuum-type fall arrest protection systems”, the FAA document said.

Plane manufacturer Airbus has also been struck by paint peeling issues with its A350 aircraft, having faced legal action from Qatar Airways.

The complaint was shut down by European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) though, which responded saying the paint issue didn’t affect the structure of the aircraft or introduce other risks.

Similarly, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said no risk was posed to passengers when tape repairs were made to aircraft.

“Any repairs, including temporary tape repairs, must be made in accordance with approved maintenance instructions,” a spokesperson told CheckMate.

The plane was initially thought to be owned by Qantas, but a spokesperson told the company was not convinced it was one of theirs.

It was confirmed paint peeling on wings of Boeing 787 aircraft in operation more than four years was not uncommon and had been noted in airlines across the globe.