Can Someone Say, Deep State? The Mysterious Deaths of Boeing Whistleblowers.

Written by Christopher Hayden.

In an industry where safety should be paramount, the sudden and alarming deaths of two Boeing whistleblowers have cast a grim shadow over the aviation giant and its suppliers. Joshua Dean, a former quality auditor at Spirit AeroSystems, recently died under mysterious circumstances, compounded by a severe and rapid infection, just months after raising grave concerns about manufacturing defects on the 737 MAX aircraft. At 45, Dean was the picture of health until his abrupt illness, which led to a mere two-week battle for life in an Oklahoma hospital.

Dean wasn’t just a concerned employee; he was a man on a mission to expose what he saw as “serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management” in the 737 production line at Spirit. His bold move to speak out came at a great personal cost. After giving a crucial deposition in a Spirit shareholder lawsuit, he found himself ousted from the company in April 2023, a clear retaliation, he claimed, for his outspoken stance on aviation safety issues. His fight for justice and accountability didn’t end with his firing; it tragically ended with his untimely death.

Echoes of a Past Tragedy

This isn’t the first death that has rocked Boeing in recent times. John “Mitch” Barnett, another whistleblower and former Boeing quality control engineer, met a similarly tragic fate. At 62, Barnett was found dead from an apparent suicide in March, amid a legal battle with Boeing over alleged quality lapses in manufacturing. His death marked a somber moment for the industry, especially as he had spent over three decades at Boeing, advocating for safety and integrity until his retirement in 2017 due to health issues.

Barnett’s accusations were severe; he alleged that Boeing had knowingly used defective parts in its planes, compromising passenger safety. His testimony and the ongoing lawsuit underscored a culture within Boeing that, according to critics, seemed to prioritize cost-cutting and efficiency over the rigorous standards expected in aircraft manufacturing. Barnett’s death, much like Dean’s, raises disturbing questions about the pressures and dangers faced by those who dare to challenge powerful corporate interests in the aerospace sector.

Industry Under Scrutiny

The deaths of Dean and Barnett occur against a backdrop of escalating scrutiny on Boeing, following several high-profile incidents involving its aircraft, particularly the 737 MAX. The model was grounded worldwide after two deadly crashes that claimed 346 lives, spotlighting serious concerns about Boeing’s design and regulatory approval process. The grounding not only led to billions in lost revenue but also tarnished Boeing’s reputation as a leader in aviation safety.

As Boeing grapples with these challenges, the spotlight has also turned to its suppliers, like Spirit AeroSystems, accused of cutting corners in a race to meet production demands. This alleged negligence has led to significant legal and regulatory repercussions for Spirit, which was put on probation and barred from shipping parts to Boeing without managerial approval from 2018 to at least 2021. These measures reflect the severity of the concerns about Spirit’s commitment to quality and safety, concerns that Dean bravely brought to light before his untimely death.

Our Take

The unfortunate deaths of Joshua Dean and John Barnett should be a wake-up call for the entire aviation industry. These were not merely isolated incidents; they were alarms signaling potentially systemic issues within Boeing and its network of suppliers. The brave actions of these men to speak out against wrongdoing stand as a testament to their commitment to safety and ethics in an industry that holds human lives in its hands. Their deaths should not be in vain but should prompt a thorough examination and reform of practices that prioritize profits over safety. This is not just about business; it’s about preserving the integrity and trust that the public places in those who are supposed to ensure that when we take to the skies, we do so without fear.

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