FAA Approved?

30 Oct 09 65 Comments

If you like reading about plane crashes and investigations, why not take a look at my ebook series, Why Planes Crash. It’s full of explanations and photographs of 21st century aviation incidents. I think you’ll find it interesting.

I found this on an aviation forum and I just can’t stop staring at the photographs.


N9368D is a Piper Supercub registered in Anchorage.


Apparently, the owner went on a fishing trip and left the catch in the plane.

Easier than a tin can

A bear smelled the food and tore the plane apart to get to it. I suppose a Piper is easier to open than a tin can…

Frontal Attack

Take a look at the horizontal stabilizer. Wow.


So, the story goes that the Alaskan pilot had 2 new tires, three cases of speed tape and several rolls of cellophane delivered to the site and promptly repaired his plane so that he could fly it home.

FAA Approved?

If you look closely, you can just about see that he wrote the registration on the side with a ball-point pen.

Would you get in?

Update: Alaska Dispatch say they got the whole story from the pilot’s father: An appetite for revenge

If you found this post interesting you might enjoy the following:


  • Rob: I really can’t see how you can fix the stabiliser with tape! I’m presuming that as the photographs are on the internet, he made it back safely though.

    dan: You are right! Except for the bit where he had the repair supplies delivered. Chuck Norris wouldn’t have needed help :)

  • This isn’t that suprising really. Duct tape (or a variation of) was used for quick repairs on aircraft in WWII.

  • Yes, I’d fly in it. The only think I want to know before doing so is that the duct tape is good quality, new and quite sticky, and that that the CG is still within limits, since duct tape weighs more than the original covering and it’s being applied quite far aft.

  • My dad once repaired the horizontal stabilizer of his DC-3 with a t-shirt and a can of 7-up and then flew it home.
    It was winter, so the frozen 7-up glued the shirt to the stab.

  • This did happen…and the duct tape did get weighty, but it was part of the load factor…just him and the tape…older craft like the 1947 Aeronca Chief was covered in material similar to duct tape except somewhat lighter…65 hp and it went well…35 cruising and 72 redline (downhill…)
    This was a very interesting story…glad he made it out.
    Pilots have to be ingenious most times….

  • Vincent, “Back-of-the-envelope” should do: Estimate the CG of the duct tape relative to the datum, erring on the aft side. Estimate the weight of duct tape applied, erring on the high side. Multiply to get the moment. Get our your W&B sheet and add it in.

    My gut says that the duct tape came nowhere near moving the CG aft of limits, but it’s easy enough to do the math.

    I’m not a pilot, and I don’t even play one on TV. This might all be nonsense…

  • im a pilot guys, and trust me that thing can not fly no matter how much duct tape u use. sure if it was minor damage some duct tape could cure it, its not even about the CG, it would stay in limits even if it was used. thing is this crafts damaged too much, the airflow would become turbulent waaaayyy b4 its supposed to, the drag would be immense, even the tires are flat, this is a picture of a trashed craft that no longer flies, there are plenty of them out there.

  • shamsher: Read the story – he had new tyres delivered (look at the last 2 pix). The stab had a bent tube – he straightened it. Turbulence? Around a PA18? The wings were not touched, so I would fly it (except I’m not checked out on taildraggers!).

  • MacGyver has nothing on Alaskan Bush Pilots.
    Duct tape, blue tarp and baling wire keeps Alaska intact.

  • I applaud his ingenuity, Red Green would be proud. Gotta kind of wonder though being used to the natural threats of the North, why would you leave fish (or any food that might attract bears in your plane or any vehicle, like leaving a sign out for them ‘Dinner is served”. Cool pics anyways thanks for putting them out there.

  • did anyone else notice the GUN MOUNTED UNDER THE WING????????????

    Do a search for “Koplin”

    What a bad ass.

  • We have this stuff at the airlines called 500 mph tape! Now that stuff is bad ass! You know what they say “if you can’t duck it f**k it!!!!”. About the CG to far aft! Don’t stall the plane and you will not have to worry about that!

  • Would I fly in a Cellophane SuperCub? Hell yes.

    We were flying reliably in wooden planes wrapped with canvas, secured with ropes. This fella made all the necessary repairs to get him back to his hangar for real parts.

    I applaud him.

  • And what’s more, there was no real damage to the actual control surfaces. Sure, the horizontal stabilizer was almost FOLDED in one spot, but the elevator remained untouched. That in itself was a stroke of incredible luck in his favor; it might be a totally different story had it been damaged too.

  • Two comments. If it were cold enough, the duct tape would take on the characteristics similar to the frozen 7up and tee shirt covering on the DC-3, maybe even those of a silk and dope covering. Stiff and tough. Also, who would waste that much duct tape on anything that wasn’t intended to be put to use again.

  • This really happened, it belonged to a friend of a friend and I know pretty much what you know… I would have no problem flying it out for repair, nothing structural was damaged except the right horizontal stab, and that was temporarily fixed. The rest is just aerodynamic covering. As for the weight of the duck tape, do you really think any of you could tell the difference in CG if you threw a couple rolls back in the tail and went flying? Youd do what you gotta do up here, when calling for help means using a sat phone to call a helicopter that is probably hours away and not much help to your plane anyhow…

  • Truth be known, If anyone remembers the “Breezy” experimental, it was simply a Cub wing in a pusher configuration with open welded-tube fuselage. In this case, it would almost have been as simple to leave the fuse uncovered after trimming the ugly edges with duct tape and securing them to the tubing. It would have been draggy, but serviceable. Oh yes, and cold!
    Anyone who has read aviation history knows how ingenious aviators (and sailors) can be.

  • They call that “100-mph tape” in aviation, esp. in Alaska. It’s been a gold standard in the bush for years.

  • I’m loving all the comments.

    I’ve sent a card to the registered owner – maybe we’ll get the story from the horse’s mouth. :)

  • Thank you Sylvia
    I am looking to the real story from the
    “horses’ mouth”
    With great pilots and those wonderful
    flying machines, anything is possible….

  • Wow, that’s some serious damage. Duct tape ought to work just fine for the skin – so long as the added weight doesn’t shift the C.G. too far aft. The real concern is the horizontal stabilizer. It wouldn’t take a big shift to make the airplane uncontrollable. There is no way this can be remotely legal. Hope the pilot made it back alright.

  • CG. is not an issue , if he was that worried, all he has to do is fly from the front instead of back. Im sure it flew great, as far as the attack goes, chuck norris would have caught another fish with his bare hands, hunted the bear down and ducktaped it to the bear, just out of reach, then smooched the bear on his lips and flew into the blue yonder.,,, this guy is a close second to chuck, though.

  • The correct aviation term for the tape you are all thinking of is
    ” Speed Tape”, which is silver and like duct tape, but a lot more sticky. I once flew a brand new 747 ( The 1,000 th example) which had 25 hours on it, after a catering truck driver modified the wing root fairing.

    Turned out the fairing was made of plastic laminated foam, and the engineers in Frankfurt carefully stuck the loose bits together
    with speed tape, and off we went at Mach .84, and the tape was still there when we got to Singapore.

  • Thank you Donnyboy for your posting on speed tape. It has bothered me for days that I haven’t been back to the site to do the same thing. Although I am not a pilot, I did spend 20+ years in the Air Force and learned quite a bit about aviation, not to mention 35 years as a model airplane enthusiast. They all work the same way, back is up,,, etc.

  • Thank you for that – I’ve corrected the reference in the post so that it now says speed tape.

    I suspect he wouldn’t have been flying quite so fast as you en route to Singapore, though! ;)

  • Hey guys,

    My brother used to fly the F17 Stealth, you know the one with the “mysterious” skin that does not reflect radar. He told me that the mechanics would often use Duck tape painted black to make a minor repair to get it back home for full repairs. Who knows maybe the whole thing is made out of duck tape:)

  • I am a pilot who has a lot of experience rebuilding ad flying fabric aircraft and i would fly it in a new york minute. we also patched more than a few b-29 aircraft with duct tape. also called red tape (for the original name) because , in the air force it was RED!!!!!!!

  • Why wouldn’t you fly it, as stated earlier the wings weren’t really touched at all, but further than that planes were originally made out of canvas over a wooden frame. Pilots (being from the calvary) originally had to wear spurs while they flew, which needless to say caused a few problems, especially since they didnt have parachutes for a while either…

  • my only complaint would have been the lack of having a sharpie or other such permanent marker on hand to redo the registration numbers on the side and possibly to write a humorous reminder on the tape about where to leave the fish next time. other than that as a former Navy Helicopter mechanic( specifically AD rating for SH-60B helos)i have done worse patch jobs to get a bird home for real repairs. as for riding in it I’d call dibs on the take off..

  • I would love to fly in it…
    Adventure is my middle name
    Love trying new things
    And by the way it is “duct” tape
    not duck tape…it is used to
    tape air ducts in heating/cooling
    BUT a small plane like this will fly with
    an engine and a wing and a little stabilization
    from the rear…open air would be nice too
    Hats off to a very adventurous smart guy…

  • Hmm, actually, I wrote speed tape, not duck tape nor duct tape.

    However, my understanding that the original term was “duck tape” which latter shifted to duct.

    Duct Tape vs. Duck Tape – an explanation

    Is it Duct or Duck? We don’t want you to be confused, so we will explain. The first name for Duct Tape was DUCK. During World War II the U.S. Military needed a waterproof tape to keep the moisture out of ammunition cases. So, they enlisted the Johnson and Johnson Permacel Division to manufacture the tape. Because it was waterproof, everyone referred to it as “duck” tape (like water off a duck’s back). Military personnel discovered that the tape was good for lots more than keeping out water. They used it for Jeep repair, fixing stuff on their guns, strapping equipment to their clothing… the list is endless.

    After the War, the housing industry was booming and someone discovered that the tape was great for joining the heating and air conditioning duct work. So, the color was changed from army green to the silvery color we are familiar with today and people started to refer to it as “duct tape”. Therefore, either name is appropriate.

  • You are absolutely correct Sylvia
    But I wasn’t referring to you about the “duct” tape…and the point was that the name today is technically duct tape and most people that call it duck tape is because they misunderstood the pronunciation…at least in my parts.
    But, you are totally correct…
    Smart woman..and probably gorgeous too.

  • Because of its superior strength and utility, the same tape, colored olive drab and called “EB Green” for Electric Boat Shipyard is used for temporary purposes in the construction of submarines, i.e holding temporary cables out of the way and posting temporary signs.
    On one occasion, a large cardboard patch was held in place by EB Green and painted hull color for a walk-through by visiting dignitaries. The patch was not found again until some time later when a compartment pressurization test was being performed and a “slight whistling” was heard!

  • In the submarine service we called that same stuff you are referring to as speed tape as “Pressure Hull Tape.” Remember, early aircraft had solid flight surfaces joined by a lattice like frames of wood and wires. After all, the rear body of the fuselage is just a fairing and not a lift surface.. I wouldn’t doubt that the duct tape repair was a stronger fabric than the original canvas and dope.

  • It says speed tape on the info not Duct Tape, Speed tape is a whole different beast, NATO use it for running repairs to fighter jets.

    patched 22 holes in a Luscombe 8A wing caused by a snow blower with ‘speed tape’ and a curved piece of aluminum to ‘patch’ leading edge damage. Patch was tapped on.
    Every float plane carries a few roles of ‘speed tape’ for repairs.
    Pop rivets also are good to patch a punctured float.
    Have also repaired plastic fairings with a hot glue gun.

  • This is, after all, a SuperCub. Basically a cross between and airplane and a helicopter. Super Cubs will all but hang from the prop if you firewall them. I’m sure that the pilot could have flown home at 50 MPH without even approaching a stall or challenging the tape’s adhesion. I don’t think you even get into the realm of reverse command (requires more power to go slower) until somewhere around 42 MPH.

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