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The Student News Site of Santa Maria High School

The Breeze

The Student News Site of Santa Maria High School

The Breeze

The Student News Site of Santa Maria High School

The Breeze

Do NOT Let Your Mother Get on a Boeing

Plane crashes, whistleblower deaths, and ongoing investigations. If you’ve got a flight coming up, hope it’s not a Boeing.
Do+NOT+Let+Your+Mother+Get+on+a+Boeing
Jennifer Bravo
A door pops off during a Alaskan airlines flight on a Boeing, Causing sudden questioning on the quality of Boeing airplanes.

Over the last couple of months, many have raised concerns over the quality of Boeing airplanes, and if they really meet the standards of safety commercial aircrafts are generally supposed to have. This all came to a head when former employee turned whistleblower, John Barnett, came out against Boeing to testify that he whole heartedly believes that Boeing has completely dropped the ball with their safety precautions, and that he cannot stand by and witness people’s live being risked everyday by shady business practices. It was only then that those shady business practices would become even shadier, as news of Barnett’s death—unofficially deemed a case of “suicide”—made headlines soon thereafter. It’s no doubt a suspicious turn of events, and with these new twists and turns, it brings to light a lot of questions. What is the truth behind all these whistleblower deaths? Why is all this coming out just now? Has it always been this way?

John Barnett (Taken by his family)

For starters, the most difficult question, is there something more to these whistleblower deaths? Well, in the case of John Barnett’s death, the only way that we can really figure that out is an autopsy report, which we have yet to see, though the coroner for the case strongly believes it was a suicide. It’s no question why people may not really believe this to be the case. While in the middle of litigation against the industry giant he’s been fighting against for years, while fighting to see justice come to fruition, and he just dies? Just the day before he was testifying in court, and he was so close to finally getting his case into court, he was so close to making some serious damage to Boeing. However, his family has come out to say that he was suffering from anxiety attacks, and that his mental health was seriously suffering as a result of working at Boeing.

John Barnett is not the only whistleblower to have recently died. Right at the end of this last month, on the 30th of April, former Spirit AeroSystems employee Joshua Dean reportedly died of a Staph infection. Joshua was a quality auditor for AeroSystems, who is in charge of supplying Boeing’s fuselages. Joshua claimed that the fuselages the 737 max jets were equipped with were filled with mis-drilled holes, something which he reported to managers, but which was completely ignored and hidden. In an interview with NPR Joshua talked about how drops in problems being reported would be celebrated, which was ironic because as he said, “we’re not lowering defects. We just ain’t reporting them”. Dean was involved with a shareholder lawsuit against Spirit AeroSystems, for keeping such big defects hidden. Obviously, two whistleblower deaths in one year, it’s a little odd, and according to his mother, what happened to him was very sudden, and they’re not entirely sure if his cause of death was something that was done to him. They’ve requested an autopsy.

So, how long have these problems being going on anyways? Well, you might’ve seen a couple months ago, during an Alaska Airlines flight, the door of the Boeing being used just completely popped of midflight. Or in 2018 when a Boeing 737 max 8 failure resulted in a fatal plane crash on an Indonesian flight, killing all 189 passengers. Or maybe about the other fatal crash on an Ethiopian flight a few months later which ended up killing all 159 passengers. Well would you believe that there was another whistleblower, who actually warned about safety problems in the coming months before those crashes? Fortunately, Ed Pierson isn’t dead and is still working hard to advocate for better regulations. Months before those two crashes, Pierson sent out an email to the general manager of 737 production, strongly suggesting that they shut down the factory for a while, so that they can figure their stuff out, because at that time, everything was in disarray. Employees were completely overworked, clocking in on weekends, doing jobs they weren’t even being paid for. It was bad, it was extremely unsafe, and it all lead to two very unfortunate tragedies. However, the official cause for the crash was the freshly adopted flight control software, MCAS.

Graphic of how the MCAS is supposed to work (Mark Nowlin)

The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was the newly implemented software which was blamed for the fatal Boeing crashes in 2018 and 2019. This system, meant to be used to stabilize the airplane, is usually blamed for the two Boeing crashes in 2018 and 2019. During both flights MCAS kept forcing the planes into nosedives, with the pilots unable to take control of the plane to right their path. It was also reported that the pilots were not informed about MCAS, as it was not in any training material, which may be the fault of at least one pilot, Mark Forkner. Though he may not have been the only person to tell the FAA that there was no need to include MCAS in a manual, he was one of them, and he did do it more than once. He is also notable because he has been included in an investigation by congress into how the 737 Maxes were certified by the FAA. While testing in 2016, Forkner sent messages to another pilot about the system malfunctioning, but that he’d already told regulators that MCAS was completely safe. Of course he is at fault for never reporting the glitch, but Peter DeFazio, the man leading the investigation believes Forkner’s been singled out in order to ignore the bigger problem, the people at the top.

Through all these whistleblowers and all these investigations into the company, the common denominator, what was most mentioned as the root of the problem, were the people at the top. The people at the top who don’t care about compromising your safety, only how much money they can save by compromising your safety. It’s important. DeFazio believes Forkner’s actions could be explained by the environment was created due to the pressure from the big guys to swiftly complete production on the 737 Maxes. Joshua Dean believed that employees who tried to bring attention to problems in production would be punished, and that he was fired by Spirit in order to convey that message to other employees. Will the remaining whistleblowers prevail against this industry giant? Will there even be remaining whistleblowers? Will the public ever be able to feel safe on a Boeing ever again. I guess we’ll have to see.

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About the Contributor
Jennifer Bravo
Jennifer Bravo, Contributor
I'm Jennifer Bravo and I am actually a senior this year. Very early into the school year I will also be turning 17, and as far as I know that isn't really an age where you unlock a bunch of new privileges like when you're 18 or 21, but it is a step closer so I'm looking forward to it. I like listening to music in my spare time and just like anyone else, I listen to basically everything except country. Lately though I've been really into the artist Arca.   I don't really watch all that many shows, I just haven't heard of enough stuff that interests me. As for reading I've been thinking about getting into the Bible; I've heard a lot of things about it. I hear it's a very beautiful text and I'd like to see what It's all about, maybe it's interesting. I don't really read comics, and I don't really like webcomics but that's probably because I haven't been exposed to enough of them because I started reading Homestuck earlier this year and it's been an alright experience, it definitely isn't for everyone though.
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