Aeronautical Engineers

Aeronautical engineers played a vital role in researching, developing and manufacturing flight vehicles during the 20th century. Many of these professionals were exposed to hazardous asbestos used in various aerospace applications. Aeronautical engineers may be at risk of developing mesothelioma decades after exposure.

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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

Asbestos Products Used in Aeronautical Engineering

Asbestos was used in air and spacecraft construction because it is lightweight, durable and has excellent insulation value. Asbestos is also highly fire-retardant, so it was the perfect solution for protecting hot and fuel-laden machines.

Aeronautical engineers routinely specified asbestos as the best material for several temperature and noise-sensitive applications. They also prescribed asbestos for friction surfaces.

Asbestos products used in aeronautical engineering include:

  • Brake linings where friction creates high temperatures
  • Insulation for noise control surrounding cockpits and passenger compartments
  • Coatings for electrical lines and hydraulic hoses
  • Soundproofing in engine and transmission areas
  • Fireproofing insulation around engines and fuel tanks
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Aeronautical Engineer Careers

Aeronautical engineers develop all types of aviation craft and equipment ranging from small personal aircraft up to large commercial jetliners. They work on various flight vehicles including sophisticated jet fighters and space shuttle systems as well as interstellar probes.

The aviation and aerospace industry still employs hundreds of thousands of professionals today. While many hold engineering degrees, they don’t always work in safe office environments. Plenty of aero engineers worked in the field daily and often inside the asbestos-laden craft.

There are four main aeronautical engineering fields:

  • Research aeronautical engineers who tested prototype equipment
  • Design engineers who planned new concepts based on research data
  • Manufacturing aero engineers involved in constructing air and spacecraft
  • Maintenance engineers who were responsible for repairing and upkeeping craft

Each field created varying degrees of asbestos-related health risks.

Aeronautical Engineers Health Risks

By the early 1990s, the health risks of asbestos exposure were well known. The facts could no longer remain hidden. Aeronautical engineers began looking for safer alternative materials. Today, few asbestos products are used in manufacturing or refitting aircraft.

Unfortunately, the years of direct and indirect asbestos exposure took its toll on many aviation industry workers. Just 30 to 40 years ago, aero industry workers were regularly exposed to large quantities of asbestos while building and maintaining aircraft. Now, many professionals who have retired from the aerospace industry are being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Proper precautions for those working around asbestos products were neglected because the long-term dangers of exposure were still unknown. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases began to show up among aeronautical engineers years after their first exposure.

No matter what field aeronautical engineers worked in, even moderate risk environments could prove disastrous to their health.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

If you’re one of the thousands of aeronautical engineers exposed to an asbestos-contaminated work environment, you may be at risk of developing mesothelioma. You may even have a positive diagnosis already, or a family member with the condition. Sadly, you might have lost a loved one due to asbestos exposure.

If you or your family has been affected by asbestos, you have legal options. You may be eligible for mesothelioma compensation. Financial awards can help you cover your medical expenses and may include punitive damages against the manufacturers who knowingly supplied hazardous asbestos products to the aviation industry.

Mesothelioma is widely understood by the medical community and the courts. Many people have sought compensation for their illness and received the justice they deserve. See all the ways we can help today.

 

Author:Stephanie Kidd

Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network

Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

Last modified: October 25, 2019

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