Boeing Whistleblower Joshua Dean Dies at 45 After Exposing 737 MAX Flaws

Whistleblower Joshua Dean, who exposed manufacturing defects in Boeing's 737 MAX, dies suddenly at 45 after battling infection, highlighting the risks faced by those who speak out against powerful corporations.

Shivani Chauhan
New Update
Boeing Whistleblower Joshua Dean Dies at 45 After Exposing 737 MAX Flaws

Boeing Whistleblower Joshua Dean Dies at 45 After Exposing 737 MAX Flaws

Joshua Dean, a former quality auditor at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems and whistleblower who exposed manufacturing defects in the 737 MAX, died suddenly on Tuesday at the age of 45 after struggling with a fast-spreading infection. Dean was one of the first to allege that Spirit leadership ignored serious flaws on the 737 MAX production line.

In 2019, Dean's disclosures led to a shareholder lawsuit against Spirit and a complaint filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding aviation safety concerns. He claimed that Spirit used unorthodox engineering practices, such as using liquid Dawn soap to lubricate a 737 MAX door seal, and alleged he was fired in retaliation for pointing out improperly drilled holes in fuselages.

Dean gave a deposition in the shareholder lawsuit detailing allegations of "serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management of the 737 production line" at Spirit's Wichita, Kansas manufacturing plant. In October 2022, Dean said he discovered mechanics had improperly drilled holes in the aft pressure bulkhead of the MAX, a critical component for maintaining cabin pressure, but claimed management did nothing when he flagged the issue.

After being terminated by Spirit in April 2023, Dean filed a complaint with the Department of Labor alleging his dismissal was in response to raising legitimate safety concerns. In August, Spirit publicly acknowledged the discovery of the improperly drilled holes, a flaw that had been present in MAXs built as early as 2019.

Why this matters: Dean's whistleblowing played a vital role in exposing potential safety issues in the production of Boeing's troubled 737 MAX aircraft. His death underscores the challenges and risks faced by individuals who speak out against powerful corporations to protect public safety.

Two weeks before his death, Dean was rushed to the hospital with breathing difficulties and diagnosed with pneumonia and a serious MRSA infection. Despite aggressive medical interventions, including being put on an ECMO machine, his condition rapidly declined. Dean's lawyer, Brian Knowles, described his passing as a "loss to the aviation community and the flying public," praising Dean's "tremendous courage to stand up for what he felt was true and right."

Dean's sudden death comes just two months after another Boeing whistleblower, John Barnett, was found dead in an apparent suicide. Both Barnett and Dean were represented by the same law firm and had been involved in cases alleging safety lapses and retaliation by Boeing and its suppliers. The FAA and lawmakers have placed Boeing under heightened scrutiny following the two fatal 737 MAX crashes and various production issues that have damaged the company's reputation.

Key Takeaways

  • Joshua Dean, a Boeing supplier whistleblower, died suddenly at 45 from infection.
  • Dean exposed manufacturing defects in the 737 MAX, leading to lawsuits and FAA complaints.
  • Dean alleged Spirit used unorthodox practices and fired him for raising safety concerns.
  • Spirit later acknowledged the improperly drilled holes Dean had flagged in 737 MAX.
  • Dean's death follows another Boeing whistleblower's apparent suicide, raising safety concerns.