Aircraft Mechanics

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. They’re responsible for an entire spectrum of aircraft servicing from aero engines to air frame rebuilding. For many years, almost all aircraft mechanics had asbestos product exposure.

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Aircraft Mechanic Job Roles

Aircraft mechanic duties included a wide variety of tasks. Some technicians specialized in one particular area like propulsion systems or landing equipment. Some mechanics were highly adept at maintaining electronic and hydraulic systems. But many were generalists working throughout an entire aircraft where asbestos loomed.

Their job descriptions 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 air frame panels
  • Retrofitting older aircraft with updated products and systems
  • Inspecting for general flaws that compromise airworthiness

Aircraft mechanics deal with planes that are dozens of years old. The air industry greatly differs from the auto business as airplanes are designed and constructed for longevity. That’s as long as the aircraft are properly maintained. Many airplanes built in the 1940s through to the 1970s are still serviceable today. But that era used a dangerous product in aviation construction—asbestos.

Asbestos Applications in Aircraft Maintenance

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Asbestos was considered an ideal aircraft construction material. It was lightweight and had excellent fire resistance capabilities. Asbestos was a top-rated insulator making it a natural compound for isolating noise, heat and cold in airplane cockpits as well as passenger compartments. Asbestos was the product of choice for engineers and designers to house fuel, electrical and hydraulic service lines.


 Many aircraft asbestos products included:
  • 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 shields around engines

Aircraft brake linings, pads and shoes are the largest source 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.

Aircraft manufacturing first used asbestos in the 1920s. By the 1940s when World War II was in full swing, tons of asbestos was flown in every conceivable type of aircraft. That continued until the 1980s when asbestos fiber dangers became known by mainstream aircraft maintenance workers. But, it wasn’t just the military hazardously exposed to airborne asbestos dust and fibers.

All these aircrafts used asbestos materials:

  • 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

Every type of aircraft used asbestos products. Military aircraft mechanics were especially at risk for asbestos exposure as so many air force and navy planes were loaded with asbestos insulation and fire protection. Aircraft maintenance technicians aboard ships like aircraft carriers were doubly compromised. Their very work environment was coated with asbestos materials.

Aircraft Mechanics and Asbestos Health Risks

Aircraft mechanics were exposed to asbestos substances regularly—on a daily basis for some technicians. Asbestos dust was present in hangers and repair stations. Even airfields were hazardous places for airborne asbestos fibers. Direct and indirect inhalation occurred for workers anywhere near an airplane under repair. It’s because so many aircraft products were composed of asbestos materials that were disturbed during refit and maintenance.

The aircraft mechanic profession is considered a low to medium risk industry for asbestos exposure health risks.

That’s not universally accepted, though. It’s not until many years after initial and long-term exposure that diseases like mesothelioma manifest. Exposure from previous decades can lie dormant for years until showing up as incurable maladies.

Asbestos Compensation for Aircraft Mechanics

What’s terribly true for aircraft mechanics is that asbestos exposure dangers were well-known by product manufacturers. These corporations kept putting profits ahead of safety and held their deadly asbestos secrets in the dark.

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of aircraft mechanics exposed to asbestos contamination and you’ve 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: May 22, 2019

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