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Physical Danger

Would you like to be your insurance agent's worst nightmare? An aircraft mechanic's career will probably award you that dubious honor—in fact, you can choose from multiple methods of injuring (and maybe even killing) yourself.

Let's begin with the extremely toxic aircraft paint you spray on the plane with a paint gun. You've got to—it’s absolutely non-negotiable—use a supplied-air respirator with this nasty stuff. The paint might as well have a skull and crossbones on the container—it's that dangerous to breathe and absorb into your skin. Ignore this warning and someone may soon be burying your skull and crossbones.

If the paint doesn't deep-six you, there are plenty of other harsh chemicals that can bite you if you're sloppy with your safety precautions. Think about cleaning solvents and adhesives—whether you're breathing the stuff or spilling it on your exposed skin. Consider the ubiquitous sanding dust—it looks so innocuous but can prove deadly if you scoff at wearing the appropriate mask or respirator. And of course there's the airplane fuel (a.k.a. avgas) or jet fuel. Draining an aircraft's wing fuel tank before a repair job often can result in unexpected fuel spills on the nearest surface—the aircraft mechanic. You won't like that (and neither will your spouse or significant other, since the fuel reeks worse than diesel).

Now are you ready for the really bloody, gory injuries? First, the power tool mishaps. For example, you might need to operate a sandblaster, drill press, riveting tool, or hydraulic equipment. One moment of inattention, and your maimed and mangled body will have to suffer the aftereffects for a lifetime.

But wait, it gets worse. Let's say you have to repair and test a faulty aircraft propeller. The fix is relatively straightforward, but you must operate the prop afterward to confirm you solved the problem. Distracted aircraft mechanics have been known to walk into a spinning propeller—once. They often don't survive. Seen Raiders of the Lost Ark? A fun scene to watch from a comfortable seat on your couch, but you don’t want to experience it.

Let's not forget those innocent-looking, deceptively lethal airplane tires. A mechanic typically changes tires on fleets of planes over the years. It seems like a no-brainer maintenance task. However, you could suffer catastrophic physical damage if you don't depressurize the tire before removing it from the plane. Picture the tire exploding away from the wheel hub into the most convenient object: your chest. Yet another often-fatal injury.

And finally, if you're a jet engine mechanic, you might meet your demise in truly spectacular and macabre fashion. Walking in front of an operating commercial jet engine puts you at high risk of being sucked into the powerful machinery. We'll spare you the specifics, except to say your next of kin won't have much to bury. If you were planning on cremation, you may already be halfway there.

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