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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.

Fact-Checked and Updated by: Jenna Tozzi, RN

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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.

Did You Know?

Nearly all aircraft mechanics were put at risk of asbestos exposure for decades.

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:

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

Aircraft maintenance technicians and mechanics faced an even higher risk of asbestos exposure since Navy ships used asbestos heavily. Many Air Force planes were also loaded with asbestos for insulation and fire protection.

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.

Many aircraft products contained asbestos, such as:

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

Engineers and designers also used asbestos products for fuel, electrical, and hydraulic service lines.

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

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.

Did You Know?

Anyone working near an aircraft under repair could have been at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers, whether directly or indirectly.

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

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of aircraft mechanics who were exposed to asbestos and got sick, you may be eligible for mesothelioma compensation.

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.

Today, these companies pay victims of asbestos-related diseases for the harm that was done.

For more information on seeking justice for your diagnosis, contact us today.

Jenna TozziWritten by:

Director of Patient Advocacy

Jenna Tozzi, RN, is the Director of Patient Advocacy at Mesothelioma Hope. With more than 15 years of experience as an adult and pediatric oncology nurse navigator, Jenna provides exceptional guidance and support to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. Jenna has been featured in Oncology Nursing News and is a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators & the American Nurses Association.

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