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Aircraft carriers are warships equipped with flight decks capable of transporting aircraft. Until the late 1970s, shipbuilders constructed United States aircraft carriers with many asbestos materials. Widespread asbestos use on aircraft carriers caused many individuals to experience exposure. As a result, Navy veterans are at a high risk of developing mesothelioma.


01. Aircraft Carriers’ History

History of Aircraft Carriers

Aircraft carriers are large warships that also serve as aircraft bases. The vessels are equipped with flight decks to allow aircraft to take off and land at sea.

In 1922, aircraft carriers were first adapted from other Navy vessels. The Washington Treaty of 1922 limited the number of battleships and cruisers the U.S. Navy could have. This led the U.S. Navy to convert two battlecruisers into the first aircraft carriers.

The U.S. Navy’s first purposely built aircraft carriers could carry up to 90 aircraft. Beginning in World War II, these aircraft carriers played a crucial role in U.S. naval battles.

The Navy’s first aircraft carriers were also constructed with a variety of asbestos-containing products. Due to the mineral’s durability and heat resistance, asbestos was a popular material in Navy ships. Asbestos was commonly used to fireproof and insulate steam pipes, turbines and valves.

Aircraft Carriers’ History At-a-Glance

  • Designations: Anti-submarine warfare support aircraft carriers (CVS), attack aircraft carriers (CVA), large aircraft carriers (CVB), nuclear-powered attack aircraft carriers (CVAN), nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVN), small aircraft carriers (CVL)
  • Years of Operation: 1922 – Present
  • Wartime Operations: World War II (WWII), the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Iraq War
  • Size of Ship: Approximately 800 – 1,000 feet long
  • Noteworthy Ships: USS Constellation, USS Independence, USS John F. Kennedy, USS Kitty Hawk, USS Lexington, USS Saratoga

Notable Aircraft Carriers

Many notable aircraft carriers were constructed with asbestos products. The mineral was valuable for its ability to withstand high heat and pressure.

Until the late 1970s, asbestos was commonly used by the U.S. Navy to insulate pipes, turbines and other materials. For example, two aircraft carriers built with these asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS Independence.

USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63 / CV-63)

The USS Kitty Hawk was an aircraft carrier constructed by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. The vessel first saw combat during the Vietnam War and supported the American presence in Vietnam until 1966.

Quick Ship Facts
  • Ship’s Name: USS Kitty Hawk
  • Year Built: 1956
  • Years In Service: 1960 – 2009

According to court records, the USS Kitty Hawk contained asbestos insulation, turbines and valves. Asbestos products on the ship were manufactured by several companies, including:

Documents also show the Navy had specifications to add asbestos insulation to General Electric steam turbines in the ship. As a result, Navy personnel on board were exposed to asbestos dust. Several individuals who worked on the ship later developed mesothelioma.

USS Independence (CV-62)

The USS Independence was the final ship constructed in the Forrestal class of aircraft carriers. In 1959, the Navy commissioned the USS Independence as an attack aircraft carrier. The ship was later redesignated as a multi-purpose aircraft carrier.

Quick Ship Facts
  • Ship’s Name: USS Independence
  • Year Built: 1955
  • Years In Service: 1958 – 1998

The USS Independence was constructed at Brooklyn Navy Yard during the height of asbestos use. Court documents show the vessel contained asbestos packing and valves.

At the time, asbestos was the principal insulating material for the U.S. Navy’s high-pressure steam valves. In the 1940s, the Navy began documenting the connection between asbestos exposure and a number of illnesses. Despite knowing asbestos was dangerous, the Navy continued to put individuals on the USS Independence at risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.

02. List of Aircraft Carriers

Complete List of Aircraft Carriers

Navy veterans, shipbuilders and crew members who served on aircraft carriers may have come in contact with ACMs.

Asbestos is no longer used by the U.S. Navy today. However, individuals who served on Navy aircraft carriers may still risk developing an asbestos illness. Mesothelioma may take up to 50 years to present. Individuals may develop symptoms many years after initial exposure.

Below is a list of aircraft carriers that may have caused exposure.

Name Commissioned Class Status
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) 1989 Nimitz Active
USS America (CV-66) 1965 Kitty Hawk Scuttled
USS Antietam (CV-36) 1945 Essex Scrapped
USS Bataan (CVL-29) 1943 Independence Scrapped
USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) 1943 Independence Scrapped
USS Bennington (CV-20) 1944 Essex Scrapped
USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) 1944 Essex Scrapped
USS Boxer (CV-21) 1945 Essex Scrapped
USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) 1943 Essex Scrapped
USS Cabot (CVL-28) 1943 Independence Scrapped
USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) 1981 Nimitz Active
USS Constellation (CV-64) 1961 Kitty Hawk To be scuttled
USS Coral Sea (CVB-43) 1947 Midway Scrapped
USS Cowpens (CVL-25) 1943 Independence Scrapped
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) 1977 Nimitz Active
USS Enterprise (CV-6) 1938 Yorktown Scrapped
USS Enterprise (CVN-65) 1961 Enterprise Active
USS Essex (CV-9) 1942 Essex Scrapped
USS Forrestal (CV-59) 1955 Forrestal To be scuttled
USS Franklin (CV-13) 1944 Essex Scrapped
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42) 1945 Midway Scrapped
USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) 2009 Nimitz Active
USS George Washington (CVN-73) 1992 Nimitz Active
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) 2015 Ford Keel laid
USS Hancock (CV-19) 1944 Essex Scrapped
USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) 1998 Nimitz Active
USS Hornet (CV-8) 1941 Yorktown Sunk
USS Hornet (CV-12) 1943 Essex Museum
USS Independence (CVL-22) 1943 Independence Scuttled
USS Independence (CV-62) 1959 Forrestal To be scuttled
USS Intrepid (CV-11) 1943 Essex Museum
USS Iwo Jima (CV-46) Cancelled Essex Cancelled
USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) 1995 Nimitz Active
USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) 1968 Kennedy Decommissioned
USS Kearsarge (CV-33) 1946 Essex Scrapped
USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63 / CV-63) 1961 Kitty Hawk Decommissioned
USS Lake Champlain (CV-39) 1945 Essex Scrapped
USS Langley (CV-1) 1922 Langley Sunk
USS Langley (CVL-27) 1943 Independence Scrapped
USS Lexington (CV-2) 1927 Lexington Sunk
USS Lexington (CV-16) 1943 Essex Museum
USS Leyte (CV-32) 1946 Essex Scrapped
USS Midway (CVB-41) 1945 Midway Museum
USS Monterey (CVL-26) 1943 Independence Scrapped
USS Nimitz (CVN-68) 1975 Nimitz Active
USS Oriskany (CV-34) 1950 Essex Scuttled
USS Philippine Sea (CV-47) 1946 Essex Scrapped
USS Princeton (CVL-23) 1943 Independence Sunk
USS Princeton (CV-37) 1945 Essex Scrapped
USS Randolph (CV-15) 1944 Essex Scrapped
USS Ranger (CV-4) 1934 Ranger Scrapped
USS Ranger (CV-61) 1957 Forrestal On donation hold
USS Reprisal (CV-35) Cancelled Essex Cancelled
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) 2003 Nimitz Active
USS Saipan (CVL-48) 1946 Saipan Scrapped
USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) 1943 Independence Scrapped
USS Saratoga (CV-3) 1927 Lexington Sunk
USS Saratoga (CV-60) 1956 Forrestal Decommissioned
USS Shangri-la (CV-38) 1944 Essex Scrapped
USS Tarawa (CV-40) 1945 Essex Scrapped
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) 1986 Nimitz Active
USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) 1944 Essex Scrapped
USS Valley Forge (CV-45) 1946 Essex Scrapped
USS Wasp (CV-7) 1940 Wasp Sunk
USS Wasp (CV-18) 1943 Essex Scrapped
USS Wright (CVL-49) 1946 Saipan Scrapped
USS Yorktown (CV-5) 1937 Yorktown Sunk
USS Yorktown (CV-10)) 1943 Essex Museum

03. Aircraft Carriers & Asbestos

Asbestos Use on Aircraft Carriers

Until the late 1970s, many aircraft carriers were constructed with ACMs. Asbestos was commonly used to fireproof pipes that carried steam and hot liquids. During maintenance and repair of these products, asbestos fibers were often released into the air.

Asbestos products commonly used on aircraft carriers, included:

Asbestos was also commonly added to parts in jets, airplanes and helicopters. Individuals who serviced aircraft may have come in contact with asbestos-containing brakes and other automotive parts. As a result, service members were put at risk of asbestos exposure.

04. Asbestos Exposure on Aircraft Carriers

Who Was at Risk of Asbestos Exposure on Aircraft Carriers?

Many individuals have experienced occupational asbestos exposure on aircraft carriers. Navy personnel and shipyard workers were at risk of exposure while cutting, sawing and handling asbestos products. During these processes, asbestos was often released into the air.

Trades that risked asbestos exposure on aircraft carriers and at shipyards include:

Individuals who worked in boiler and engine rooms were at an increased risk of exposure. Poor ventilation and tight working conditions led to a high concentration of airborne asbestos fibers.

Asbestos in the air put nearby workers at risk of inhaling or ingesting the mineral. Exposure to asbestos fibers caused many workers to develop illnesses such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.

05. Compensation Options

Compensation for People Exposed on Aircraft Carriers

Many Navy veterans and shipyard workers have developed asbestos illnesses from exposure on aircraft carriers. These individuals may seek compensation from companies responsible for their exposure.

To receive compensation, asbestos victims and their families may file mesothelioma lawsuits. Successful cases often result in mesothelioma settlements or jury awards.

Pipefitter’s Wife Awarded $1 Million

After developing mesothelioma, a pipefitter filed a lawsuit against Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation and several other asbestos companies.

For years, the man worked as a pipe coverer and pipefitter at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. The man spent time insulating pipes and valves on the aircraft carrier USS America. He also installed and removed pipes aboard several submarines. During these jobs, he experienced asbestos exposure.

The man died from mesothelioma before the end of the trial. The jury awarded his widow approximately $1 million. This included $409,017 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages against Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation.

Military veterans with asbestos illnesses may also be eligible for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. By filing a VA claim, veterans may receive financial compensation. Veterans may also seek treatment for asbestos illnesses at VA hospitals.

Individuals and their loved ones should contact a mesothelioma law firm to learn more about their legal options. In addition to lawsuits, victims may be eligible for other types of compensation. Mesothelioma lawyers understand state legal deadlines and may help their clients gather evidence needed to file a claim or lawsuit.

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