Boeing whistleblower found dead of a gunshot wound; didn’t finish testimony against the company

News & Politics

John Barnett, 62, worked for
Boeing for 32 years. Prior to his retirement in 2017, he worked on the 787 Dreamliner as a quality manager at the Boeing factory in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Barnett recently became involved in a whistleblower lawsuit against Boeing, blasting the company for allegedly retaliating against him for detailing possible safety issues at the aerospace and defense corporation’s factories. He was poised last week to continue with his pretrial deposition but never showed up.

Barnett was found dead Saturday in his truck outside his South Carolina hotel,
reported the BBC.

The Charleston County Coroner told the BBC that the Boeing whistleblower died from a “self-inflicted” wound and that police were investigating.

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Barnett’s attorney, Brian Knowles,
told the Corporate Crime Reporter that his client “was supposed to do day three of his deposition here in Charleston on his AIR21 case.”

“Today is a tragic day,” wrote Knowles. “John had been back and forth for quite some time getting prepared. The defense examined him for their allowed seven hours under the rules on Thursday. I cross examined him all day yesterday (Friday) and did not finish. We agreed to continue this morning at 10 a.m. (co-counsel) Rob (Turkewitz) kept calling this morning and his (Barnett’s) phone would go to voicemail.”

Knowles indicated that after multiple failed attempts to hail Barnett, they asked the hotel to check on him.

“They found him in his truck dead from an ‘alleged’ self-inflicted gunshot,” said Knowles.

According to Barnett’s lawsuit, workers were using “sub-standard” parts on Boeing 787 aircraft and leadership was glossing over malfunctions to save money,
reported the Daily Mail.

Barnett
told the BBC in 2019 that up to 25% of oxygen systems on the 787 Dreamliner could be faulty and fail to work when needed. He also suggested that faulty parts were intentionally installed on planes at a Boeing factory and alleged that in at least one instance plane parts were sourced from scrap bins.

“As a quality manager at Boeing, you’re the last line of defense before a defect makes it out to the flying public,” the whistleblower
told the New York Times in 2019. “And I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on saying it’s safe and airworthy.”

While the company denied the allegations, some of Barnett’s concerns were reportedly
substantiated by a 2017 Federal Aviation Administration review.

Barnett remained critical of Boeing in recent years, especially as
various malfunctions and production concerns made headlines.

For instance, when pressed about the
Jan. 5 incident where the door plug of a commercial Boeing 737 Max 9 came off as the plane was ascending, Barnett told TMZ, “This is not a 737 problem, this is a Boeing problem.”

“I know the FAA has gone in and done due diligence and inspections to ensure that the door plugs on the 737 are installed properly and the fasteners are installed properly, but my concern is … what is the condition of the rest of the airplane?” said Barnett.

Boeing said in a statement, “We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

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