Helicopter Mechanics Likely Exposed

Helicopter Mechanics Likely Exposed to Asbestos

Military staff in the United Kingdom who worked on the Sea King brand of helicopter were most likely exposed to asbestos on the job, the country’s Ministry of Defence announced this week.

Helicopter Mechanics Likely Exposed to AsbestosLocal newspapers reported that thousands of engineers will be affected by this announcement but that, chances are, pilots will be fine and were probably not exposed to the toxic mineral unless they performed maintenance on the helicopters in which they flew.

Now, however, the Ministry has said that they are faced with the difficult task of rounding up and notifying anyone who worked on the Sea King aircraft over the last 50 years that they were more than likely exposed to asbestos and probably inhaled the hazardous fibers from helicopter parts like clutches and brakes, making them candidates for developing diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Furthermore, it’s now the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) obligation to make sure the exposure ends here and no one else is adversely affected.

“Any remaining items in in-service Sea Kings suspected to contain asbestos are being removed urgently and we are contacting those who may have been exposed in the past, detailing the actions they should take,” the MoD said.

Furthermore, foreign governments, civilian organizations, and other entities which have bought former UK military Sea King helicopters will be contacted and will be advised of any action it might be necessary to take in order to protect those who come in contact with the planes.

A MoD spokeswoman said: “The safety of our personnel and our partners is always our highest priority. All Sea King items suspected to contain asbestos have been removed from stores.”

In the U.K., about 5,000 individuals die each year of asbestos-related illnesses. That number is a bit lower in the U.S. but, nonetheless, airplane/helicopter mechanics in America were also at risk of exposure for decades.

Auto mechanics of decades ago also encountered asbestos and some still do when working with old cars or with cars that include foreign parts that still contain asbestos.

Sadly, however, in the case of the Sea King helicopters, someone had to die before the situation was brought to the attention of the MoD and others who may have been exposed to the asbestos-containing parts in those heavy-duty helicopters.

Australian serviceman Petty Officer Greg Lukes was an avionics technician who worked in maintenance on Sea Kings in New South Wales. He succumbed to mesothelioma four years ago.