Aeronautical Engineers and Asbestos Exposure
Aeronautical engineers, also known as aerospace engineers, are highly trained professionals employed in building and maintaining all forms of air and spacecraft. Ever since air travel began at the turn of the 20th century, aero engineers worked hands-on with highly technical machines and the products used to manufacture them. One of these primary products was asbestos.
Asbestos was an important part of aircraft construction from the early 1900s when aeronautical engineers realized its exceptional aviation properties. Manufacturers supplied tons of asbestos products to the aircraft industry despite early indications of potential health risks. Despite many warnings, engineers continued to install asbestos materials in planes.
Asbestos remained standard in aerospace manufacturing well into the space age of the 1970s and 1980s.
How Aeronautical Engineers Were Exposed to Asbestos
Throughout the 20th century, almost every type of air and space vessel used asbestos to some degree. Working with vessel parts, machines and manufacturing products containing asbestos put everyone nearby at risk of asbestos exposure.
Some affected workers were directly and regularly exposed. Others suffered second-hand exposure when asbestos fibers polluted their work environment.
Each aeronautical engineering field presented risks of asbestos exposure, including:
- Design Engineers: These professionals faced a lower exposure risk than researchers who tested and operated aircraft.
- Manufacturing Engineers: Designing and operating manufacturing systems put people at risk of a moderate amount of asbestos exposure during factory assembly.
- Maintenance Aeronautical Engineers: People carrying out aircraft maintenance faced the highest risk of asbestos exposure when disassembling and repairing components containing asbestos.
Some types of aircraft that exposed aero engineers to dangerous levels of asbestos include:
- Military propeller and jet transport airplanes
- Military fighter and interceptor planes
- Military light and heavy bombers
- Helicopters and other rotary-wing aircraft
- Civilian personnel and commercial air transport vehicles
- Missiles and guidance systems
- Spacecraft and exploratory craft