Whistleblower Who Raised Concerns About 737 Max Dies

Josh Dean said Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems tried to 'silence' him
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2024 6:04 AM CDT
Whistle­blow­er Who Raised Concerns About 737 Max Dies
The final version of the 737 MAX, the MAX 10, takes off from Renton Airport in Renton, Wash., on its first flight Friday, June 18, 2021.   (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)

A whistleblower who alleged Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems ignored manufacturing defects on the 737 Max died Tuesday of an infection following two weeks in critical condition, a relative tells the Seattle Times. Josh Dean, 45, was acting as a quality auditor at Spirit in October 2022 when he said he found mechanics had improperly drilled holes in the aft pressure bulkhead of the Max. He said management failed to respond. He was fired the following April when he was found to have missed a manufacturing flaw in fittings that attach the vertical tail fin to the fuselage. Months later, Spirit claimed to have discovered the improper holes in the bulkhead, per the Times, and Dean complained to the FAA.

He alleged "serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management of the 737 production line." He also complained to the Department of Labor, alleging he was fired in retaliation for raising aviation safety concerns, and gave a deposition in a Spirit shareholder lawsuit. He started having trouble breathing two weeks ago and visited a hospital, an aunt tells the Times. She says he was intubated, developed pneumonia, and then developed MRSA, a serious infection caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. He was moved from a hospital in Wichita, Kansas, where he lived, to Oklahoma City, but his condition deteriorated. Just before he died, doctors had been considering whether to amputate his hands and feet, per the Times.

"Our thoughts are with Josh Dean's family," says Spirit spokesperson Joe Buccino. "This sudden loss is stunning news here and for his loved ones." In November, the FAA notified Dean that its investigation "determined that your allegations were appropriately addressed under an FAA-approved safety program. However, due to the privacy provisions of those programs, specific details cannot be released." In February, Dean told NPR that his firing sent the message, "We will silence you." He was represented by the same law firm as Boeing whistleblower John Barnett, who died of an apparent suicide in March while giving depositions about Boeing's alleged retaliation against him for his complaints about quality concerns. (Barnett's mother blames Boeing for his death.)

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