October 20, 2011 - Duct tape can fix anything. Right? But can an airplane covered in duct tape actually fly?
Mythbusters proved it could on its show that aired Wednesday, October 19, as co-hosts Kari, Grant, and Tory patched up an airplane that had an unfortunate encounter with a bear - actually Kari using a bear claw. The idea for the show actually came from an incident about two years ago when an Alaska pilot did the same thing, duct taping the fuselage and tail of his Super Cub that had significant damage caused by a bear. In 2010 the story (and accompanying photos) went viral and caught the attention of James Wiebe of Belite Aircraft, who e-mailed the producers of Mythbusters, the popular Discovery Channel television program.
But Mythbusters didn’t just cover the tail and fuselage with duct tape; they covered an entire Belite airframe - completely replacing the $13,000 aerodynamic fabric covering - with duct tape. The damaged plane had lost its rudder, so it had no directional control, but had structural integrity although its skin was gone. After covering the aircraft vertically and horizontally with duct tape, it looked like an airworthy aircraft. But their test showed that an airplane covered in duct tape could actually fly. Once back on the ground, they thoroughly checked the plane and found nothing had come loose, and the entire surface looked the same as when it took off.
Wiebe himself flew the plane during filming in June. “It’s an excellent example how we must use every means possible to remind people about the joy of aviation,” he said in an AirVenture Today story in August. “I think it will be uplifting in an emotional sense to those who have not been exposed to the fun and freedom we have.”
Wiebe’s blog noted that the Mythbusters show was so popular and that so many people went to their Belite website immediately following the show that their website crashed.
Watch the Mythbusters after-show here where the hosts answer questions from viewers about the program, such as getting insurance for the duct tape airplane, and why they didn’t go R/C for the project.
A Mythbusters television show that aired Wednesday proved that an airplane repaired and covered with only duct tape can actually fly. Photo credit: Mythbusters
James Wiebe of Belite Aircraft, left, talks with Mythbusters staff in front of the damaged aircraft. Photo credit: Mythbusters
Kari holds the claw she used to damage the Belite aircraft, which was then repaired using only duct tape. Photo credit: Mythbusters