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Whistleblower’s Passing Puts Spotlight on Boeing’s Safety Concerns

Boeing Whistleblowers Keep Suddenly Dying

Joshua Dean, a former quality auditor at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, passed away due to a sudden illness, his family announced. Dean had raised concerns about defects in the production of the 737 MAX, a series plagued by crashes and safety issues. His death follows that of another Boeing whistleblower, John Barnett, who died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Dean’s passing is likely to refocus attention on Boeing, which has faced heightened scrutiny since a Boeing 737 Max experienced an emergency exit door failure in midair. Negative headlines regarding safety issues have tarnished Boeing’s reputation, with a majority of Americans expressing reluctance to fly on its aircraft.

As a quality auditor at Spirit, Dean had highlighted lax standards and numerous defects at a Boeing manufacturing plant in Wichita, Kansas. Despite raising concerns to management in October 2022, little action was taken, and the issues were only disclosed to investors after independent reporting in August 2023.

Whistleblower's Passing Puts Spotlight on Boeing's Safety Concerns

Whistleblower’s Passing Puts Spotlight on Boeing’s Safety Concerns (Credits: KSBY)

Dean alleged that Spirit terminated his contract in retaliation for flagging defects, using a false justification related to an audit failure. He also filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accusing Spirit of serious misconduct, which the investigation confirmed without providing further details.

Dean’s sudden demise at 45 was attributed to pneumonia and complications from an MSRA infection, according to his family. His lawyer emphasized the loss to the aviation community and the public, while Spirit expressed condolences, acknowledging the impact of his loss.

The circumstances surrounding Barnett’s death, another Boeing whistleblower, remain under investigation. He had accused Boeing of retaliating against him for exposing safety issues with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. These deaths underscore the challenges whistleblowers face and the stakes involved in addressing safety concerns within the aviation industry.

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