Aircraft Mechanics

Asbestos was used in many aircraft parts and products thanks to its heat-resistant and insulating properties. Maintaining, repairing and retrofitting aircraft put aircraft mechanics at risk of asbestos exposure. Aircraft mechanics were also indirectly exposed to asbestos while working in hazardous environments including hangers, airfields, and military aircraft carriers.

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Aircraft Mechanics and Asbestos Exposure

Aircraft mechanics are specialized workers with significant training, expertise, and experience in the aviation industry. Most aviation mechanics are trade-designated as aircraft maintenance technicians. These professionals are responsible for a broad spectrum of aircraft servicing duties from maintaining aero engines to rebuilding airframes.

For many years, nearly all aircraft mechanics were exposed to asbestos.

The aircraft industry began using asbestos in the 1920s. By the 1940s, when World War II was in full swing, asbestos was present in every conceivable type of aircraft. The use of asbestos in aircraft manufacturing continued until the 1980s when the dangers of asbestos became known by aircraft maintenance workers and the general public.

How Aircraft Mechanics Were Exposed to Asbestos

Aircraft brake linings, pads, and shoes were the largest sources of airborne asbestos dust for aviation workers. Fine friction particles stored in aircraft brake housings were released in clouds every time a mechanic opened the enclosures.

Every type of aircraft contained asbestos, including:

  • Military troop and equipment transports
  • Military fighter jets and interceptors
  • Military reconnaissance and surveillance planes
  • Military light, medium and heavy bombers
  • Helicopters and rotary-wing aircraft
  • Civilian cargo and commercial passenger jetliners
  • Private pleasure planes and corporate commuters
  • Missiles and guidance systems
  • Spacecraft and interstellar probes

Military aircraft mechanics were especially at risk of asbestos exposure. Many Navy and Air Force planes were loaded with asbestos for insulation and fire protection. Aircraft maintenance technicians who worked aboard aircraft carriers faced an even higher risk of asbestos exposure since military ships also used asbestos heavily.

Asbestos Used in Aircraft Manufacturing

Asbestos was considered an ideal aircraft construction material in the 20th century. It was lightweight and had excellent fire resistance capabilities. Asbestos was a top-rated insulator and was frequently used to control noise, heat and cold in airplane cockpits as well as passenger compartments.

Engineers and designers chose asbestos products for housing fuel, electrical and hydraulic service lines.

Many aircraft products contained asbestos, such as:

  • Brake linings, pads, and shoes
  • Airframe sound isolation in engine and exhaust compartments
  • Insulation in heated and air-conditioned sections
  • Engine gaskets, grommets and control valves
  • Adhesive products like glue and sealants for sectional panels
  • Heat blankets and engine shields
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Aircraft Mechanic Careers

Aircraft mechanics were responsible for a wide variety of tasks. Some technicians specialized in one particular area, such as propulsion systems or landing equipment. Other mechanics were highly adept at maintaining electronic and hydraulic systems.

However, numerous aircraft mechanics were generalists who worked on all kinds of aircraft parts, many of which contained asbestos.

An aircraft mechanic’s job description may have included:

  • Disassembling and rebuilding piston and jet engines
  • Maintaining electrical and navigational components
  • Servicing fluid levels in fuel and hydraulic systems
  • Repairing and replacing brake parts
  • Welding and joining airframe panels
  • Retrofitting older aircraft with updated products and systems
  • Inspecting for general flaws that compromise airworthiness

Modern-day aircraft mechanics often work with planes that are decades old. The air transport industry designs and constructs airplanes for longevity, so many old plans are still serviceable today.

Aircraft mechanics may work on planes that were built from the 1940s through to the 1970s — the era during which asbestos products were most heavily used.

Aircraft Mechanic Health Risks

Throughout much of the 20th century, aircraft mechanics were exposed to asbestos products regularly — on a daily basis for some technicians. Asbestos dust was often present in hangers and repair stations. Even airfields were hazardous places where airborne asbestos loomed.

Countless aircraft products were composed of asbestos materials. These materials were easily disturbed during refit and maintenance, releasing asbestos into the air. Direct and indirect inhalation of asbestos fibers occurred for people working anywhere near an aircraft under repair.

The aircraft mechanic profession is considered a low- to medium-risk industry for asbestos-related diseases.

It can take years for aircraft mechanics to develop disease symptoms after their exposure to asbestos. After long-term exposure, aircraft mechanics can develop life-threatening diseases like mesothelioma.

Help for Mesothelioma Victims

Sadly, the dangers of asbestos exposure to aircraft mechanics were well-known by product manufacturers. These corporations decided to put profits ahead of safety, concealing their deadly asbestos secrets from the public and keeping their victims in the dark.

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of aircraft mechanics exposed to asbestos and have since developed mesothelioma, you may be eligible for compensation. For more information on seeking justice for your diagnosis, contact our Justice Support Team 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 23, 2019

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