Mesothelioma and Asbestos Risk for Aircraft Mechanics

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Commercial and military aircraft mechanics have been at high risk of asbestos exposure. Many companies manufactured asbestos airplane parts for decades. Despite regulations, older airplanes may still contain asbestos parts. Aircraft mechanics exposed to asbestos may later develop mesothelioma.

01. Asbestos Risk for Aircraft Mechanics

How Are Aircraft Mechanics Exposed to Asbestos?

Civilian and military aircraft mechanics may have handled asbestos-containing parts. These mechanics ensure aircraft are flight ready. This includes performing repairs, inspections and general maintenance.

Before the 1980s, manufacturers of aircraft parts often used asbestos. The mineral was useful in the aviation industry because of its durability and fire resistance. Common parts made with asbestos were brake pads, valves and gaskets. This put aircraft mechanics at a high risk of asbestos exposure.

When installing or repairing asbestos-containing aircraft components, fibers can become airborne. Mechanics may inhale or ingest these fibers. Asbestos exposure may lead to diseases such as mesothelioma.

Facts About Aircraft Mechanics
  • 151,300 aircraft mechanics in the United States (2020)
  • Asbestos Exposure: Previous and low ongoing exposure risk
  • Asbestos-Related Disease Risk: High
  • Similar Occupations: Automotive mechanics, electricians, machinists

Although regulations now limit asbestos use in products, aircraft mechanics may still be at risk. Mechanics who work on older airplanes may handle some parts that contain asbestos.

What Asbestos Products Put Aircraft Mechanics at Risk?

Since the early 1900s, many companies manufactured products with asbestos. Companies that supported the aviation industry manufactured asbestos insulation, sealants and other materials.

While repairing aircraft, mechanics may have come in contact with these asbestos products. Aircraft mechanics also used fireproof equipment such as asbestos gloves and blankets to protect themselves from hot machinery.

Aircraft mechanics may have been exposed to asbestos from:

Despite knowing the dangers of asbestos, companies used the mineral for decades. As a result, these negligent companies continue to put military and civilian aircraft mechanics at risk.

Manufacturers of Asbestos Products Used by Aircraft Mechanics

Common Places Asbestos Is Found in the Aircraft Mechanic Industry

Civilian and military aircraft mechanics may risk asbestos exposure at various jobsites. Civilian employees may work for an airline, repair hangar or a private company. Military employees may work at an Air Force base in the United States or abroad.

Aircraft mechanics work in different areas of an aircraft. Many of these areas may have previous or ongoing asbestos contamination.

Locations in aircraft that often exposed aircraft mechanics include:

  • Brake systems
  • Cockpits
  • Engines
  • Fuselages
  • Landing gears
  • Propellers
  • Tail assemblies
  • Wings

Today, asbestos use is more restricted in the United States. However, aircraft with older parts may still put mechanics at risk of exposure. Aircraft mechanics may also be at higher risk of inhaling asbestos fibers while working in enclosed spaces, such as the cockpit.

Aircraft Mechanics and At-Risk Trades

Besides aircraft mechanics, there are other aviation professions at risk of asbestos exposure. These occupations may have used the same asbestos products and perform similar work.

Other at-risk trades in the aviation industry are:

In addition to occupational exposure, individuals at home may also be at risk of secondary asbestos exposure. Family members may be exposed if mechanics bring asbestos-contaminated clothing into the home.

02. Mesothelioma Risk for Aircraft Mechanics

Mesothelioma Risk for Aircraft Mechanics

Retired and current aircraft mechanics may be at risk of developing an asbestos-related illness. Symptoms of asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, may take decades to present. Asbestos lung cancer and asbestosis may also present years after exposure.

In 2010, scientists analyzed four studies about mesothelioma and aircraft mechanics. They noted the relatively high asbestos content of products routinely handled by aircraft mechanics.

“Asbestos content was relatively high in the brakes, ranging from 16 to 23% by weight in some types. This suggests that people employed in aircraft maintenance-repair work, including brake replacement, might be at risk for asbestos disease.”

– Claudio Bianchi and Tommaso Bianchi, Center for the Study of Environmental Cancer–Italian League against Cancer

Individuals who handled asbestos parts may later develop health issues. Individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of exposure may be eligible to file a lawsuit or bankruptcy trust fund claim.

03. Compensation for Aircraft Mechanics

Compensation for Victims of Occupational Asbestos Exposure

Mesothelioma patients, including aircraft mechanics, have filed lawsuits against companies for asbestos exposure. Major aviation companies such as Lockheed Martin Corporation and Boeing Company are often sued. Pursuing a lawsuit can provide aircraft mechanics and their loved ones with financial compensation through a jury verdict or settlement for mesothelioma.

Florida Judge Awards $9 Million in Mesothelioma Lawsuit

In 2016, the wife of a mesothelioma victim won a lawsuit against Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation. The plaintiff’s husband worked as an aircraft mechanic for the company. He experienced workplace asbestos exposure and later developed mesothelioma. The judge ordered Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation to pay approximately $9 million to his wife and estate.

Experienced mesothelioma lawyers can explain lawsuits and other legal options. For instance, those diagnosed with an asbestos disease may be eligible to file a mesothelioma trust fund claim.

If aircraft mechanics are exposed on the job, they may qualify for workers’ compensation. Because military aircraft mechanics are also at risk, they may be eligible to file a VA claim.

Mesothelioma law firms can help victims pursue the best legal option for their situation.

04. Asbestos Safety

Asbestos Safety for Aircraft Mechanics

Federal regulations for asbestos are overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also manages workplace safety for asbestos. The aviation industry follows these standards for asbestos handling and disposal.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has more regulations that are avionics specific. In 2019, the FAA issued an order for asbestos management at Air Traffic Organization ​(ATO) facilities. This order adds further guidelines for asbestos management and aims to protect workers in the aviation industry.