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Question For NVAV8R (or anyone who knows airplanes!)

Started by jojo, December 10, 2013, 06:01:01 pm

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Hi guys,
I've got the interior of an old small airplane from the early 80s. When I took the old fabric off of the armrests (which came off of the doors of the plane), there was a material that I'd never seen before. It's black and fibrous but has a hard texture. I kind of think it may be asbestos? I've seen glimpses of it on home improvement shows and that's what it looks like.
How can I know for sure? I'm going to take a picture and upload it later.
Also, if it is, how safe is it to work on? The pieces are small; not really armrests but more like hand grips for the door.



I would be very careful about proceeding on this job. Not because of that piece of fabric you found but simply because airplane work is not like any other work done in  this trade.

EVERYTHING has to be documented, recorded, etc. Any fabric used HAS to meet FAA regulations, lot numbers and manufacturers info recorded, etc. NVAV8R is our resident expert on this subject so I will let him comment.

I am an aviation/airplane nut and pilot. I live and breathe aviation but refuse to touch the interior of a plane. I will fly them but I wont work on them. The FAA is worse then the IRS. :)

In regards to the fabric I believe asbestos was banned before the 80's. Most of the products were banned in the 70's. I am going to guess that this fabric is some other type of fire retardant barrier used. NVAV8R will know exactly what it is.



Chris, it's not the fabric, it's where maybe a thin layer of foam would normally be on the hand grip itself, under the fabric. I did read that they still use asbestos in small amounts on aircraft brake linings, etc. So it would not be out of the realm of possibility that this is asbestos.
The customer ordered the fabric from a supplier who only sells FAA approved fabric, so I'm not worried about that part of it.
I've compared what I have to pictures of asbestos on the internet, and I'm 100% sure that it is.
So am I gonna get mesothelioma from this??


I am going to let NVAV8R comment on this as he will know what the material is. He can also fill you in on the procedure for COM fabric and materials. I am not sure who is responsible at that point for logging the info into the aircraft log book.

Having never done an airplane before I am not sure on the procedures, especially for COM fabric. I do know I was looking at buying some bulk aviation fabric ( leather and vinyl ) and was going to re-sell it. I was getting it at dirt cheap prices. Turns out it couldn't be used in aviation because the tag numbers were missing showing the serial and lot numbers and manufacturer.

I am hoping he will show up here and comment on this thread. I am very curious to know the entire procedure for doing airplane interiors, specifically the log entries, ,material logging requirements, etc.



  I also don't do aircraft but if this is asbestos your dealing with it is fine unless you disturb it and the particles are breathed in. I know the dangers of the product and have worked with it many years before we all became enlightened to the dangers. I am sure you will be fine. But before removing it find out for sure. If you plan on going over it and it is fine with the powers to be then it is a non issue as it will not be disturbed. Encapsulating it solves the problem. But as stated aircraft are a different animal so check out the legalities first.
Minichillo's Upholstery


Thanks Paul. I'm going to wear a mask and be quick about it.


I grew up in a kitchen where an asbestos mat was a necessity - like a microwave oven is today.  Everyone had one.  You couldn't control heat precisely without it.  Like this... http://www.flickr.com/photos/asbestos_pix/3579918112/in/set-72157614455320652  Never heard of anyone having health issues as a result (YMMV). 

"Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people."

     W. C. Fields


Hey there JoJo:
   From what you are describing, it sounds like nothing to really worry about. I have seen armrest foam, black in color, actually get so hard and fibrous from the heat and sun exposures. Like Mojo had mentioned, it is highly unlikely any factory interior was equipped with any asbestos in the 70s let alone the 80s. I have worked on several from the 50's and 60's and had not ran into anything. I can not say anything about the NONCOMPLIANT upholsterers that could of did a job since the original. There were early fire retardant sprays that did turn the foam or fabric fibrous. You could have an A&P mechanic go back in the airplane's logbook to see if or what was used, if indeed it was redone. I have actually lit on fire factory material on older cheaper General Aviation aircraft even though all upholsterers have to comply!
  If you are still uneasy about this, you could google to locate some test labs to see what it is, but you might be opening a can or worms.  I would put on a respirator, remove it and replace it with FAA approved foams and or fabrics with burn certificates.  Post a couple of pics if you could.

Strive for Perfection...Settle for Excellence!


Thanks Gale,
I put on a mask and did them rather quickly. What you describe is exactly what they look like. It was just weird because I'd never seen black foam before.
But while I have your ear, let me ask you about the back seat. The seat connects to the back with three bolts, one close to each end, and one in the center. Getting it apart was a royal PITA, but getting them back together is proving impossible! There are metal tabs on both the seat and the back (which poke through the fabric and padding) that have to be aligned before you can put the bolt in. The center is proving to be the hardest to align because the seatbelt assembly has to go in between the four tabs which join the seat front and back. Now I have tiny hands, and managed to get the end bolts in, but just have no ideas for the center. Have you had any experience with this kind of seat?


December 17, 2013, 02:39:18 am #9 Last Edit: December 17, 2013, 02:46:09 am by NDAV8R
I need to know what aircraft you are working on, make, model, and year. Pics would help a lot. I think you definitely have to get an A&P mechanic to help you out. I always take photos before every job.

Strive for Perfection...Settle for Excellence!


Turns out it was a Piper twin engine from the 60's. I thought it was from the 80's based on the fabric color choice. Customer picked it up already, and I handed him the bolt that goes through the seatbelt assembly. He said he'd take care of it.
Thanks for your help!


hey there JOJO:
Glad you worked through your situation. Older Pipers are not too bad, once you get on to them. There are many that are worst. A lot of time you have to deal with various sized bushings with all the bolt pivots, too. Some roll pin holes are drilled specific to each side and can not interchange. Oh well, your done with it, but I hope that doesn't stop you from doing another. We learn as we go!

Strive for Perfection...Settle for Excellence!