Mesothelioma in Aircraft Mechanics

Military and civilian aircraft mechanics are at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma. Aircraft mechanics were routinely exposed to asbestos during their daily jobs before the early 1980s and may still endure harmful exposure.

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Aircraft Mechanics and Mesothelioma Explained

aircaft mechanic working doing repair work

Aircraft mechanics maintain and fix broken planes, helicopters, and other types of aircraft.

Within the U.S. military, aircraft mechanics ensure offensive and defensive aircraft remain in working order and can deploy at a moment’s notice.

Until the early 1980s, asbestos was a common material used in the construction of new aircraft. Asbestos had many practical applications and was found in a range of mechanical parts, coatings, and epoxies.

Asbestos exposure in aircraft mechanics came from:

  • Adhesives and epoxies
  • Aircraft brakes
  • Engines
  • Electrical systems
  • Insulation

When the asbestos in these components is disturbed, tiny particles can become airborne and be inhaled or ingested by aircraft mechanics and others nearby. These particles get embedded into the lining of major organs and can develop into mesothelioma over the course of several decades.

Many aircraft workers exposed to asbestos before the early 1980s are only now receiving their diagnoses. Veterans who served their country during times of both war and peace are suffering from asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, because of their occupational exposure.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness after serving in the U.S. military, you may qualify for benefits and compensation. Find out what may be available to you with our Free Veterans Packet.

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History of Asbestos Exposure & Aircraft Mechanics

Asbestos was used in aircraft construction and design as far back as the 1920s since it's fire resistant, lightweight, a great insulator, and cheap.

During World War II, aircraft production and maintenance ramped up, and asbestos was present on almost every military and civilian plane. Aircraft mechanics were in almost constant contact with asbestos as result.

Not knowing what we do now, no precautions were taken to protect against the fibers that became airborne when disturbed. This put aircraft mechanics at a high risk of asbestos exposure.

Many types of aircraft used asbestos-containing materials, including:

  • Bombers
  • Commercial airplanes
  • Fighter jets
  • Helicopters
  • Spacecraft
  • Surveillance planes
  • Transport aircraft
  • Other types of planes

Asbestos was also used in guidance systems, missiles, hangars, and other military assets like U.S. Air Force bases, meaning some mechanics were exposed every day in many ways.

Did you know?

By the mid-1980s, the U.S. Air Force was well aware of the dangers of asbestos and had started to phase out or remove asbestos-containing products. However, this took time and for many military aircraft mechanics, the damage was already done.

Some older planes may have asbestos-containing products aboard even now, putting today’s mechanics at risk. Certain modern-day planes may also use imported parts made with asbestos. It’s critical that additional precautions are taken when working on these planes.

Highest Risk Jobs For Asbestos Exposure in Aircraft Mechanics

Any U.S. Air Force aircraft mechanic employed before the 1980s is at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. Many aircraft components like brake and engine systems contained asbestos, exposing mechanics as they performed their jobs. In addition to mechanical components, the epoxies and glues used to repair aircraft also contained asbestos.

Aircraft mechanics who worked on military aircraft carriers are at an even higher risk of developing mesothelioma due to the extensive use of asbestos on U.S. Navy ships.

Aircraft carriers are notorious for their high levels of asbestos use. The ships used asbestos in insulation, pipes, wiring, walls, flooring, engine rooms, and more, putting many who served on them at risk.

Just as asbestos was widely used in the U.S. Air Force and Navy, it was also used in civilian aviation. As a result, civilian aircraft mechanics are also at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma.

Aircraft Mechanics and Compensation

Aircraft mechanics who were exposed to asbestos during their time serving in the U.S. military may be able to get help through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as well as by filing private claims.

VA Benefits for Veteran Aircraft Mechanics

If you were exposed to asbestos during your service in the military and became sick, you may be entitled to VA benefits that can help you and your family deal with your illness. Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer are expensive and put an enormous strain on patients and their loved ones.

Luckily, you earned access to the VA's world-class medical and financial benefits. The VA has top mesothelioma doctors in network and pays out nearly $4,000 a month to many qualifying veterans with mesothelioma.

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center can help you apply for VA benefits now.

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Private Compensation for Aircraft Mechanics With Mesothelioma

Aircraft mechanics who have developed mesothelioma have been able to get compensation from the manufacturers of asbestos products by filing private claims.

These companies knew the risks of asbestos for decades, but they hid the facts from the public and the government. They chose to keep making money while endangering both military service members and civilians.

Once the truth came out, attorneys were able to start holding these companies accountable and get victims of asbestos exposure much-needed compensation for treatment, lost wages, and the pain they have suffered.

Learn more about filing a private compensation claim with our Free Veterans Packet.

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  • Top Treatments
  • Best Doctors
  • Improving Prognosis

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Help for Aircraft Mechanics With Mesothelioma

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma after serving as an aircraft mechanic, you may be able to receive financial compensation.

Keep in mind that if you were just diagnosed, it could be the direct result of work you did decades ago. It takes 10-50 years for mesothelioma to develop after being exposed to asbestos.

If you worked with or around asbestos as an aircraft mechanic, it’s essential you get screened for mesothelioma. Early diagnosis of mesothelioma has been directly linked to more positive outcomes.

If you do receive a diagnosis for an asbestos-related illness, remember that you may be able to file for VA benefits and private compensation that can help you pay for treatment. Get started now with a Free Veterans Packet.

FAQs About Mesothelioma and Aircraft Mechanics

Is there asbestos in airplanes?

Yes, asbestos was used in airplane parts throughout much of the 20th century.

While asbestos could be found in many different parts of aircraft, it was most commonly used in areas of high heat and friction. This means that brakes were one of the places where asbestos was most likely to be encountered.

How are aircraft mechanics exposed to asbestos?

Both civilian and military aircraft mechanics worked around asbestos-containing products like brakes and insulation on a daily basis without protection. As they worked, asbestos fibers were released into the air and mechanics could have breathed them in or swallowed them.

As a result, aircraft mechanics who worked on planes between the 1930s and early 1980s are at a higher risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

What is the main cause of mesothelioma in aircraft mechanics?

Exposure to asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma in aircraft mechanics.

There is no safe level of asbestos exposure, so even mechanics who were exposed just once could develop this deadly cancer. Many parts of an aircraft used asbestos, and working on and around these parts was essential to these mechanics' work.

However, the risks are higher among aircraft mechanics (and anyone else) exposed to asbestos on a regular basis.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

  1. National Institute of Health. "Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma Epidemiology in the United States From 2000 to 2016." Retrieved from: Accessed on February 29, 2024.
  2. War Related Illnesses and Injury Study Center. “Exposure to Asbestos." Retrieved from: Accessed on February 29, 2024.