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2 May, 2024 09:17

Second Boeing whistleblower dies suddenly

A quality auditor, who flagged defects in the 737 MAX, passed away after a sudden illness
Second Boeing whistleblower dies suddenly

Joshua Dean, a former Spirit AeroSystems employee who raised the alarm over lax standards in the production of Boeing’s 737 MAX jet, has died following a sudden and severe illness. In March, another Boeing whistleblower was found dead in a hotel parking lot in what authorities tentatively described as a suicide.

The 737 MAX airliner has had a history of accidents, including two leading to multiple deaths. In October 2018, one of the aircraft went down in Indonesia, claiming the lives of all 189 people on board. Five months later, another Boeing 737 MAX – operated by Ethiopian Airlines – crashed soon after takeoff, killing all 157 passengers and crew. The two tragedies prompted a 20-month grounding of the airliner.

In January, a Boeing 737 MAX-9 operated by Alaska Airlines saw one of its doors and part of the fuselage break away in midair, soon after takeoff. An audit by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of Boeing and one of its key suppliers, Spirit AeroSystems, subsequently “identified non-compliance issues in Boeing’s manufacturing process control, parts handling and storage, and product control.”

Dean’s family members revealed that the former quality auditor at Spirit AeroSystems passed away on Tuesday morning. His relatives said he had been hospitalized just over two weeks ago with impaired breathing. Dean was intubated, developed pneumonia, and contracted a fast-spreading antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus infection.

The 45-year-old, who is said to have been in good health and leading a healthy lifestyle, was put on a life-support machine.

In October 2022, Dean said he had uncovered a serious manufacturing defect in the production of a key component that helps Boeing’s 737 MAX maintain normal pressure. He claimed that management chose to ignore his warnings, after which he filed a complaint with the FAA, alleging “serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management of the 737 production line.”

Spirit AeroSystems fired Dean in April 2023, accusing him of missing another major flaw. The whistleblower then filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, claiming his termination was in retaliation for his revelations.

In March, former Boeing quality manager John Barnett, known for raising concerns about the firm’s production standards, was found dead with a gunshot wound days before he was due to give evidence in a whistleblower lawsuit against the aerospace giant.