Can anyone out there confirm for me whether the brake units on the Phantoms were asbestos or not?
I have been diagnosed with stage 3 to 4 lung cancer and believe there may be a connection, as I have never smoked.
All the best
Just read your post to the forum Dave. You must be devastated. Just got my phantom course notes out and there is no mention of any asbestos content in the M or k versions. I am sure if there was it would have been in the safety and servicing notes. I will have a look at the manufacturers notes that was issued with the Phantom delivery. Just need to remember where they are. Silly question but is your condition definitely asbestos related?
Thank you for taking the time to reply. Yes it is devastating news for the family and very unexpected.
There is a cancer called Mesothelioma which is DEFINITELY caused by asbestos, which is very bad and the consultant thought I had that, and the life expectancy is only about 12 - 21 months. I have a different more common (but still bad and incurable) cancer which for most people is caused by smoking, but I've never smoked, or been in a smoky environment. There is no family history of cancer and my consultant says it was almost certainly caused by exposure to asbestos. I was working as a rigger on 29 Squadron Phantoms for seven years, and suspect that is where my exposure occurred.
There are websites that detail how aircraft mechanics were exposed to asbestos dust
This is a fantastic site for all us ex tomb engineers, but the forum is completely public. If you need to contact me please feel free to private mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello Dave, first of all i am sad to hear of your diagnosis. If it's any help then rather than chase brake units, look at the type of build the hangar was. Many RAF hangars were built with a large proportion of asbestos in them as a fire retardent. Only a couple of years ago the Hangars at Linton had to be evacuated and cleaned as asbestos was found in them. I cannot recall the construction of our hangar on 29 Sqn but I do recall that when the heating system in the ceiling was installed in the late 70s, the material used to insulate the air pipes was like a silver foil packed with a substance which looked like a mix of fibres, possibly some kind of fibreglass, or maybe even asbestos, but that is just a guess. . The 41Sqn hangar, later BBMF Hangar was pannelled with asbestos, I clearly recall having to replace some of them whilst on 41. I wish you well Dave and my thoughts are with you and your family. GM
Good to hear from you and thank you for your kind wishes,and I hope you are keeping well
Thank you for your memories and you are right in that during this period many hangars contained asbestos in the construction and the lagging of the hangar ducting. I do feel however that I was most directly exposed during my aircraft maintenance,
Asbestos in aircraft can be found in several aircraft components. Including engine and electrical insulation, asbestos blankets, brakes, cockpit heating system, heat shields for engines, torque valves, gaskets, electrical wiring and insulation in the cargo bays.
Asbestos content can be 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.
I believe this asbestos exposure issue for aircraft mechanics will become a bigger issue as latency can be as short as 10 years or as long as 50, but the average length of latency for malignant mesothelioma is 35 to 40 years between exposure and diagnosis. Because the latency period for mesothelioma can vary from patient to patient, so too does the age of onset of the disease vary. I feel that this issue will peak and then die out, as sufferers pass away and there is much lower risks with more modern aircraft.
After leaving the RAF I remained working for many years as an aircraft maintenance engineer on old pre 1970 cargo aircraft, where I believe my exposure continued.
Thanks again Gary
Thank you for the prompt reply Dave, I am fine thank you and thank you for asking. I was concerned to see that brake units contained so much in weight as part of its construction. I knew that old aircraft did have some level of asbestos, but I wasn't aware of the extent of the problem. I know that you never smoked, Dave, but in those days we were subject to high levels of passive smoke in the crew rooms, bars and pubs. Especially the crew rooms when there was a large percentage of smokers. I looked at the instances of related illnesses involving aircraft people on the internet and as you say, there is a cause for concern to the many who worked in that environment.
Thanks again for the message and stay in touch.
There was asbestos in the brakes. The warning is in the 5A2 Safety & Servicing Notes (Which I have a PDF copy of). I also have the complete Vol1, Vol3 & Vol6 for the Spey powered Phantom. If you want copies of any/all of these let me know
Hi Dave, really sorry to hear that tragic news. I have read through the other responses, all of which seem helpful - especially Dick Barton's brilliant finding. I do hope that is useful for your needs. I lost a colleague a few years ago to the same horrible infliction that is Mesothelioma. Den Rayner, ex-Nav Instie, but on the Harrier fleet. Seems that he was informed that the highest probability for his case was exposure to asbestos during exercises, whilst he was located in the Admin Cabin within the Mk1 Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS) as a so called 'aircraft controller'; F700 management etc. I stress that he was specifically told that it was Mk1 cabins, and that it was likely to have been during his time at Gutersloh. Now I know that Laarbruch had Mk2 HAS system, I suspect that those at Coningsby and Leuchars might have been either Mk2 or 3, but I do not know if the same air feed configuration was used in all them. It might well have been! It seems that the filtration system blowing air through the Mk1 HAS was proved to be lined with asbestos. Hard to credit that the only source of so called fresh air into the Mk1 cabin was riddled with potential Mesothelioma causing spores. Most of us spent time in a HAS of some description.
I am not a member (yet) and have just found this website. I was on 43 Sqn from September 1969- December 72, and RAF Wattisham Engine Bay February 1979 - March 81.
When I was in ASF at Kinloss we had many pigeons nesting in the hangar roof for most of the time I can remember. It was a pain in the backside organising hangar sweeps every morning to clean up the insulation and other crap on the floor. It all came to a head when there was some damage caused to the roof and they had to get a contractor in for repairs. Shock horror when it was established that the material was asbestos and we had been sweeping it up with all the dust every day.
Net result was all of our medical records were supposedly marked up to include exposure to asbestos dust. I say supposedly as I have never checked.
The hangar was a typical second world war type similar to those at Leuchars, Wattisham, Coltishall, etc etc. It could be worthwhile trying to find out if there was any work done on hangars you worked in and whether there was any indication of asbestos debris.
Thanks very much for your post. I do wonder about the possible exposure to asbestos from the hangars/HAS's we worked in, as well as the aircraft we worked on, but after all this time it is hard to be exact.
I do hope you have been unaffected by your exposure, but if like me you find yourself getting unexpectadly breathless easily - don't delay get it checked out.
I appreciate your reply Jim