Lo Tek or High Tech?

Chiraag from Pardon My Hindi recently posted a video onto YouTube of his harrowing experience flying Air Deccan (via BoingBoing). Says Chiraag:

I dug up this video I shot back in December ’04 when I was aboard an Air Deccan flight from Bangalore to Mumbai. Looked out my window and what did I see, A group of guys repairing the wing with some sort of muthafcukin’ duct tape. There’s some more repairs to the left of the one they are working on with what seems to be the same technique. Crossed my fingers, tossed back a shot of Black Label, and stayed on the flight. [Link]

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p>Honestly, I probably would have reacted the same way, sans Black Label. It looks like a typically desi “Kam Challao” scene – equal mixtures of ingenuity and utter disregard for the principles of safety, like a bus patched together with baling wire, careening down a Himalayan road.

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p>However, looks can be deceiving. This isn’t a 19th century desi solution, it’s a thoroughly modern one. As the comments on Turbanhead reveal, that isn’t duct tape it’s “Speed tape” – it’s specially formulated for use on airplanes (and racing cars and possibly even nuclear reactors). Those employees were actually doing what they would have in any first world airport!

“What you see is the perfectly safe and legal application of some heavy-duty aluminum bonding tape, called “speed tape” in the mechanic’s lexicon. Depending on what a plane’s maintenance manual stipulates — according to the dictates of the FAA — certain noncritical components can be temporarily patched with this material, embarrassing as it sometimes looks. It’s extremely strong, durable, and able to expand and contract through an extreme range of temperatures…” [Link]

Here’s a similar story of a passenger freaking out after watching the application of speed tape on a plane in Seattle.

Poor desi aircraft workers – even when they’re using the most expensive, cutting edge products, we still suspect them of cutting corners and endangering our lives.

22 thoughts on “Lo Tek or High Tech?

  1. thanks for that post! i took a russian piloted puddle-jumper across w. africa, and saw the pilot ‘fixing’ something on the outside with what looked like duct tape, and have been questioning my sanity ever since. now i know it was (hopefully) speed tape, and that i’m totally rational for having stayed on the flight!

  2. hot damn!!!

    i’d have had a twinge myself on seeing that. but desi airports are cool. one time i was in a little town – and their PA system was tight like an orang utans sphincter, and having the same frequencies – missed the call to board – but the plane could nt take off without me – finally some guy chased me down – and we raced down the runway on a tractor no less – me hanging from a bar less than a foot away from the wheel.

    i luv india. majic in every bite, touch and shout.

    did i tell you about the time i had to pee inside a crowded bus in a bottle – because the next pit stop was 100k out… just glad it wasnt number 2.

    aa jao. bahut space hai.

  3. The part they are speed taping is the right aileron which controls the roll of the plane by up or down deflection. The aileron is one of the main things a pilot checks in their pre-flight walk-around so it’s good to know they caught it. One scenario if you have a broken aileron is that you have to take an incredibly wide radius turn or keep going straight until you find a place to land on your path. To me it looks like (and it’s hard to tell because its fuzzy) they are just applying tape to make sure the aerodynamic flow over the wing is more in line with what it should be. A rough patch would cause turbulent flow over that part of the wing which would of course negatively impact performance.

  4. did i tell you about the time i had to pee inside a crowded bus in a bottle – because the next pit stop was 100k out… just glad it wasnt number 2.

    here’s a tip for travelign in india. carry a vicked swing-knife and keep an empty bisleri water bottle with you – it’s very handy as a pret-a-bedpan. for men, cut off the top about 2 inches from the top parallel to the bottom. for women, cut off at an angle of 45 degs from the bottom. use and empty the contents out the window. keep the bottle around to dispose off later.

    that vill be 2 dallar. thank you come again.

  5. Ha! Reminds me of an Indian Airlines flight we took in 1988 from Madras to B’lore. Before takeoff the stewardess came up the aisle with screwdriver, etc. arranged neatly on a cloth-covered tray, which the pilot used to fix something relating to the door mechanism.

  6. Awesome post Ennis. I’ll not cancel those Air Deccan tickets for this winter trip to India yet.

    Honestly, I probably would have reacted the same way, sans Black Label.

    Waaat? Heeere haweanother visky. It will put hairs on your chest!

  7. Loved your comments, hairy_d!

    Magic is right. Creative solutions when things don’t work and a very practical attitude towards these solutions by all involved. Wanna pee in a bottle? Go for it, they say. Pit stop with no toilet for a hundred kilometres? No problem. Left side is “ladies”-pee side, right side is “gents”-pee side, depending on which way the first person ran. But when does the bus stop, only when the driver himself wants to go. Afraid to drink water, no problem. Drink cheap soda. Safe because it’s not possible to dissolve CO2 in bad water – or so is the belief

    But then you come/(come back) to the US and there’s another kind of magic. There IS water, and toilets and thing DO work.

  8. Just for the record: I’ve flown Air Deccan a lot in the past year and a half – numerous trips between Chennai and Madurai on their twin engine props, and numerous trips on the Chennai-Delhi-Bombay triangle (and one Delhi-Bangalore) on their brand new A320s. No problems yet.

  9. Great post. Perhaps our own deeply held desi-stereotypes at work.

    Whats interesting in the video is the number of guys it took to apply tape! All kinds of desi variations on the old joke come to mind, but I will spare the mutineers.

  10. I always found commuter flights in India to be the best ever. They serve you good food and the hostesses are kind of hot. Something about only wealthy people being able to fly in India raises the bar a little. Whens the last time you flew domestically in the US and had a good experience?

  11. I always found commuter flights in India to be the best ever. They serve you good food

    are you kidding me. they serve all this spicy stuff, vadas and cholley and stuff. it causes gastric turbulence. and one has to stew in someone’s pew chained to the seat with no way out – not knowing whos’ the offender… i just got angry a lot. this is not funny guys.. it is really nasty and i got claustrophobic a lot.

  12. If only the Indian workers were wearing orange colored vests (with hundreds of various tools hanging around the waist) they would have looked more professional.

  13. I always found commuter flights in India to be the best ever.

    Check

    They serve you good food and the hostesses are kind of hot.

    Yes, and yes

    Whens the last time you flew domestically in the US and had a good experience?

    This is a rhetorical question, right?

  14. I wish they would use some of this ‘speed/duct’ tape on the Bdesh Biman, maybe they can tape up the internal cockroach tunnels and take care of the continuous air conditioning water drip.

  15. Yes, it’s faster than using duct tape. More expensive and more adhesive too.

    [You're asking a sardar? What on earth do I know about depilation?]

  16. I bet they use the third world speed tape.

    Your pathetic attempt at humour probably explains your excellent decision to stay anonymous.