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.