Another Boeing Whistleblower Turns Up Dead

They’re dropping like 737s …

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While the vast majority of media outlets in South Carolina have been consistent cheerleaders for crony capitalist aerospace giant Boeing, this website has consistently called them out. And consistently called out the “Republican” politicians who gave the company more than $1 billion in taxpayer-funded incentives to locate in North Charleston, S.C. back in 2009.

Our scrutiny of Boeing understandably ramped up in the aftermath of the March 9, 2024 “suicide” of 62-year old John Barnett of Pineville, Louisiana. Barnett spent over three-and-a-half decades of his life working at Boeing as a quality control manager – including seven years at the North Charleston facility.

After he left, Barnett became a prominent corporate whistleblower – exposing serious safety problems with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner as well as broader cultural issues within the company.

“I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I would consider safe and airworthy,” Barnett told reporter Nadia Daly of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in January of 2020.




This week, another prominent Boeing whistleblower passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. According to reporters Dominic Gates and Lauren Rosenblatt of The Seattle Times, a quality auditor at one of Boeing’s top suppliers died on Tuesday (April 30, 2024) after a two-week battle with a “sudden, fast-spreading infection.”

Josh Dean, 45, of Wichita, Kansas blew the whistle on manufacturing defects at Spirit AeroSystems – which manufactures fuselages on Boeing’s troubled 737 Max aircraft.

“In October 2022, Dean said he found a serious manufacturing defect: mechanics improperly drilling holes in the aft pressure bulkhead of the Max,” Gates and Rosenblatt reported. “When he flagged this issue with management, he said nothing was done.”

Dean filed a safety complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), alleging that Spirit “used him as a scapegoat” and lied to the agency about the defects in the 737 Max. His complaint specifically alleged “serious and gross misconduct by senior quality management of the 737 production line.”

The FAA claimed his concerns had been “appropriately addressed” by the company last November, although a January 2024 in-flight fuselage panel blowout involving an Alaska Airlines jet certainly indicated otherwise.



Boeing has been implicated in an apparent cover-up of that incident, incidentally.

According to his family members, Dean began having trouble breathing in mid-April. He was subsequently intubated but then developed pneumonia – and later a bacterial infection. After being flown to Oklahoma City for more aggressive treatment, he reportedly passed away following a debilitating stroke.

Dean was said to have been in excellent health prior to experiencing his initial shortness of breath last month.

Dean was represented by the same South Carolina-based law firm as Barnett. At the time of his death, he was participating in a shareholder lawsuit and had recently provided a deposition.

Sound familiar? Barnett was in the middle of his deposition related to a whistleblower-related lawsuit at the time of his death, which remains under investigation by local law enforcement.

“Whistleblowers are needed,” attorney Brian Knowles said in a statement provided to the Times. “They bring to light wrongdoing and corruption in the interests of society. It takes a lot of courage to stand up. It’s a difficult set of circumstances. Our thoughts now are with John’s family and Josh’s family.”

For more coverage of this ongoing corporate cronyism scandal – which has already resulted in changes at the top at Boeing – check out this in-depth treatment by our director of research, Jenn Wood.



(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.



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JustSomeGuy Top fan May 2, 2024 at 10:46 am

If we were living in an episode of The Blacklist, someone inside the law firm would be responsible for the deaths. They’d be the common denominator that has the appearance of advocating for the whistleblower. They’d be part of an international operation, probably based in Russia, and only a Boeing senior official and another from an institutional shareholder would know about it.

JustCallMeAva Top fan May 3, 2024 at 8:14 am

My mother said to me last night this is like what they do in Russia. I’m just shocked neither of these guys fell off a building or “accidentally” fell from a multi-story window.

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The Colonel Top fan May 2, 2024 at 11:58 am

A few 737 Facts:
The plane was first flown in 1967 and has been in continuous upgrades ever since
Its competition was the MD DC-9 which is almost completely obsolete now
More than 11,000 have been built and more that 9,300 of those are still in service
There are still 4,000 aircraft ordered and in the production pipeline
More than 120 carriers have used the 737 and more than 19 countries currently use them in their military
They have been involved in 234 “aircraft hull lost” accidents but the airplane accident per departure rate for the current models is .054 per million departures and .027 per million for the current model

Are there some problems? Yes, windows (actually a hatch) don’t normally fall out of airplanes while in flight and generally, the manufacturers do a better job explaining what happens under certain flight conditions that cause the computer to take over. However, the 737 was and is a great plane.

JustCallMeAva Top fan May 3, 2024 at 8:17 am

A few more facts for you there, Colonel. Once upon a time, Boeing was a company run by engineers who knew how to build plans. Currently, it’s run by a bunch of MBA’s whose sole purpose is to wring profit out of the company for their shareholders. They don’t know how building an airplane works. They don’t know how it should work. They also pushed for and got–during the Trump administration, the ability to “inspect themselves”. Do away with outside regulation and regular inspections and you begin to see new planes being built and put into service where their windows fly off, parts come off in flight, etc. Boeing is desperately trying to rest on their past and their many laurels but this is not the same company that built those great planes. They’ve been hollowed out from the inside, another victim of corporate greed and know-nothing CEOs. But don’t worry, the current CEO is getting a great exit bonus.

tamara rhodes Top fan May 2, 2024 at 4:00 pm

I’m a little leary about chalking up an infection and subsequent stroke to malfeasance on the part of Boeing. I think it’s just an unfortunate event. John Barnett, on the other needs serious investigation. No way that man killed himself.

James May 4, 2024 at 2:02 pm

Colonel, the fact that this plane has flown for 57 years and the Mad Dogs are nearly all sitting in the desert might argue that it’s time for a new design, say the 797 that the bean counters nixed nearly 10 years ago. It’s been modified beyond it’s sell-by date, the latest iteration which required an (apparently unknown to many pilots) system to avoid retraining costs is way past the last straw. It was a great plane, perhaps not the latest iteration.


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