Spirit Aerosystems Whistleblower Dies


For the second time in two months a prominent Boeing-related whistleblower has died. The Seattle Times is reporting Josh Dean, 45, a former quality control inspector at 737 MAX fuselage supplier Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, died from an infection by an aggressive antibiotic-resistant bacteria called Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA. He died after two weeks in critical condition with the fast-spreading infection, the last few days on life support. Like Boeing whistleblower John “Mitch” Harnett, who died of what is so far being described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound on March 9, Dean was pursuing a complaint against Spirit for retaliation over his claims. He was represented by the same legal firm as Harnett.

Dean reported quality control issues at Spirit that included improperly drilled holes on the pressure bulkhead that eventually led to a suspension of production at Boeing’s Washington State MAX plant. He was fired by Spirit in 2023 and claimed that he was scapegoated by Spirit and alleged the company had lied to the FAA about the bulkhead defects. He filed the whistleblower complaint last November and the case was pending. He actually went to work for Boeing in Wichita before moving to another company.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. “Mystery deepens as the stream of truth becomes muddied. Wise man does not overlook the pattern in the reeds, for it often tells story hidden beneath the surface.”-Charlie Chan

  2. Sorry … this is starting to become more than a suspicious occurrence. Doesn’t seem like FAA whistleblower protection worked for this 45 year old guy who reportedly ‘ate healthy’ and was fit. Maybe these folks oughta do it anonymously so as to ensure their longevity?

    • I had MRSA, fortunately after a six day hospital stay, three weeks after on intravenous antibiotics and two weeks after that on oral antibiotics I lived to tell the tale. It is serious and anyone can get it, has nothing to do with your age or fitness. There is no conspiracy here, there wasn’t with the first one either. The cat on Spirit was already out of the bag so to speak and nothing would be gained by offing either one of these people.

      • Mine was not diagnosed as MRSA, but Non-Specific Sepsis. Was in school for recurrent training on my aircraft. Admitted with a 103 deg. fever. Searched my skin for cuts, punctures, insect bites, nada. 5 days with two I.V. lines and enough horse pills to gag a – well, horse. Docs were quite worried. Wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

      • PRECISELY what I was thinking, StarMan. Vince Foster and Jeffrey Epstein would likely agree?

      • Not really. Putin’s victims die by barely deniable causes, while Putin practically brags about the deed to send a message. So far, no one from Boeing has been so brazen.

  3. Certainly it’s easier for a worker to call out their company, when they should *publicly* call out the crappy workers *by name*.
    Everyone will scream for management heads to roll, but crappy workers produce crappy product even with good management. Fire them.

    • Negative. Companies with a safe and just culture do not retain “crappy” workers. There is no such thing as “good management” with a sustained crew of crappy workers.

      • ***k you. An all-purpose racist dog whistle to derail serious discussion of a very serious issue.

        • Really??? I guess you don’t follow business DEI cost and effectiveness. You obviously lack first hand experience. Companies are dropping the DEI mantra for one reason cost. There is no return, only exorbitant cost.

  4. Two deaths at Boeing is very suspicious because I’ve heard that Boeing people are not supposed to ever die.

  5. Is it just me, or does it seem like Spirit AeroSystems, being a key supplier to big companies like Boeing, Airbus, and Bombardier, shows a weak spot in the industry?

  6. Anyone familiar with the Al Jazeera English documentary called “People & Power – On a wing and a prayer” from back in 2010??? It’s only had about 87,000 views in all that time.

    It is 52 min. long but deals with EXACTLY this topic IN DEPTH. Saw it several years ago. Not surprisingly it was not easy to find but still available on YouTube for now….

  7. Russ, is there a carved-in-stone requirement that EVERY article has to have a picture with it – even if the picture is as uninformative as this comment?

    I don’t want to single out AvWeb here. The practice of posting meaningless images solely in order to fill a picture box on the template is sadly all too prevalent on the web, and is seventh on my list of pet peeves.

    • I think you’ll need to move on from this pet peeve. I like the overall effect.

      I’m just glad it wasn’t AI generated. Give it a few years, and that’s all you’ll see–images that seem improbable, and may be true, but probably aren’t.

    • In a word, yes. I looked for a pic of Dean but couldn’t find one. The pictures have a designated space and the newsletter looks funny without them. I also thought that photo was just fine and since I’m the one who gets to decide that it means you’re wrong:) Can’t wait to hear about the other things on your list.

      • Sorry, but they are MY pet peeves. You’ll have to adopt your own – the shelters are full of them, just waiting to join someone’s ‘forever’ list.

      • I support Russ’s decision and your comments wholeheartedly.
        It would have been even better to have a great news photo to accompany the article. You were unable to get a news photo for deadline.
        That said, your photo was NOT misleading. It was very obviously generic. It provides a visual anchor to the story, and Internet viewers need that.
        My opinon is based on 50 years working in the design of newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and the occasional internet page.

        • “It provides a visual anchor to the story, and Internet viewers need that.”

          I’m happy to say that not all of us do. The Internet was healthy and growing before the World Wide Web, back when adding visuals was a luxury – expensive both in upload/download time and dollars.

          But I’m sorry to say that you’re probably correct about the teeming masses that populate the web now. “Back in the day” ‘net users were a more elite group, stemming from academia, research labs, and IT nerds (like me).

          Which compares to air travel. “Back in the day”, when flying was expensive, passengers were likewise a more elite group, and there was no need to carry cable ties or duct tape to deal with the disruptive commoners that have become all too common.

          MY opinion is based on 60 years of reading newspapers, magazines, newsletters, usenet postings, and internet pages.

  8. FLASH!! Spirit Aerosystems to build airframes for Maxwell seaplanes at secret new facility in Bartow, FL.

  9. If there is a conspiracy here, it is the unwitting (witless?) conspiracy to deny our children a proper education in math skills. We used to teach “arithmetic in your head”; now it’s “use your calculator to figure out what that ‘10% discount’ is worth”. Without fundamental math skills, there is no way teach children more useful concepts like statistics. Less than half of our high-school graduates will ever need calculus, yet we offer them several levels of it, and only one course (if that) on the much more broadly-applicable subject of statistics.

    We could teach fourth-graders the concepts of populations and sampling, and the distinctions between mean, median, mode, and variance. All without resorting to Greek symbols, much less calculus, and using fun examples. (There’s a whole city in Nevada full of examples.) With any luck, we might raise a generation of critical-thinking people who don’t take the supermarket tabloid headline (or bloviating politician) at face value. At this point, the odds aren’t good.

    • Finish your premise … what are the probabilities that TWO whistleblowers ate the weenie coincidentally on purpose? 🙂

      • Larry, “ate the weenie”? Did you mean “Everything happens for a reason,” “There are no accidents,” “That’s a little too convenient,” “Smells fishy”?

    • You and I could have a great conversation about teaching math concepts. There would be both agreement and disagreement.
      But none of your essay addresses the “Whistleblowers die suspiciously” question.
      Sharpen up. Either address THAT core concept or announce that you’re abandoning your earlier innuendo and want to focus on facts about the deaths.

    • “With any luck, we might raise a generation of critical-thinking people who don’t take the supermarket tabloid headline (or bloviating politician) at face value.“
      To late…

  10. This obsession with conspiracies, nefarious actions by Boeing, etc., etc. are indicative of a warped mindset. People actually do die from natural causes, e.g., MRSA which IS A THING.

    • While skepticism is healthy, it’s equally important to avoid falling into the trap of attributing everything to a conspiracy without sufficient evidence. Or disregarding without investigating.

    • When a whistleblower dies unexpectedly, you can’t help but wonder. When two who raised concerns about the same company die shortly apart, it raises a red flag. May not be anything to it, but it sure smells funny.

  11. “Like Boeing whistleblower John “Mitch” Harnett, who died of what is so far being described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound on March 9…” It’s John Barnett.

  12. Russ: John Mitchell Barnett (February 23, 1962 – March 9, 2024) was an American whistleblower who was known for his substantiated safety and quality reports to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about Boeing’s production of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and death which occurred amidst a lawsuit he brought against Boeing. Barnett worked in quality control at Boeing for 32 years, serving for seven as a manager in North Charleston, South Carolina. Barnett was one of several employees to go public about malpractices at Boeing beginning in 2019 with The New York Times and was featured in the 2022 Netflix documentary titled Downfall: The Case Against Boeing. (Wiki)