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Boeing Whistleblower Who Warned of Defects in 737 Max Line Dies After Contracting Fast-Spreading Infection

Boeing Whistleblower Dies after Warning about Manufacturing Defects in 737 Max Line

Boeing Whistleblower Dies after Warning about Manufacturing Defects in 737 Max Line

A Boeing whistleblower who raised concerns about manufacturing defects in the 737 Max line of planes before being fired in 2023 has died after contracting a fast-spreading infection.

Joshua Dean, a 45-year-old mechanical engineer, reported experiencing trouble breathing a little over two weeks ago and was admitted to the hospital. Unfortunately, he developed pneumonia and was ultimately diagnosed with MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant infection, leading to his untimely death. Dean, who previously worked as a quality auditor at Boeing’s supplier Spirit AeroSystems, was known for his healthy lifestyle and was in good health prior to his illness, according to his aunt.

A Whistleblower’s Warning Ignored

Dean was among the first whistleblowers to sound the alarm about quality issues at Spirit AeroSystems, which manufactures the fuselage of the beleaguered 737 Max. In a lawsuit he filed against the company in December, Dean alleged that Spirit AeroSystems management made false or misleading claims about their commitment to safety and defect-free manufacturing. He described reporting a problem with the aft pressure bulkhead, a critical component of the Boeing 737, to various managers in different departments, but his concerns were ignored. Subsequently, news emerged that Spirit employees had indeed misdrilled holes on parts of some 737 Max planes, including the aft pressure bulkhead Dean had previously warned about.

Additionally, Dean had lodged a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration, accusing the quality management team working on the 737 Max production line of “serious and gross misconduct.” Following his termination in April 2023, Dean also filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, asserting that he had been fired for raising safety concerns about Boeing’s aircraft.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal in January, Dean disclosed that planes were leaving the Wichita factory with undetected defects, primarily due to a culture that prioritized meeting unrealistic deadlines over uncovering flaws.

Dean remarked, “It is known at Spirit that if you make too much noise and cause too much trouble, you will be moved. They don’t want you to find everything and write it up.”

Another Boeing Whistleblower’s Tragic End

Dean’s death marks the second high-profile loss of a Boeing whistleblower this year. In March, John Barnett, a retired quality manager who had worked at Boeing for 32 years, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Barnett had been providing evidence for a whistleblower lawsuit that claimed one in four oxygen masks on Boeing planes could be faulty. In his testimony, Barnett detailed a range of issues at the company, including a production-first, quality-second culture, inexperienced quality managers, and pressure to approve incomplete parts inspections to keep the assembly line running.

Both Dean and Barnett were not the only individuals voicing concerns about Boeing’s Max line of planes. Recently, Sam Salehpour, a quality engineer with more than 30 years of experience at Boeing, testified at a Senate hearing on Boeing’s safety culture. Salehpour alleged that the company had retaliated against him for raising safety concerns about certain aircraft parts, and that he had been threatened for voicing such issues.

He revealed, “I was ignored. I was told not to create delays. I was told, frankly, to shut up.” Salehpour also stated that his boss, after being confronted about safety concerns, remarked, “I would have killed someone who said what you said in a meeting.”

Salehpour claimed that such an environment did not foster a safety culture at Boeing, where employees were discouraged from raising safety concerns.

Ensuring Accountability for Safety Concerns

The unfortunate deaths of Boeing whistleblowers like Joshua Dean and John Barnett emphasize the challenges faced by employees who strive to ensure safety and raise concerns about manufacturing defects. As investigations continue and lawsuits progress, the broader issue of a safety culture in the aerospace industry remains a critical topic that needs attention.

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