Boeing Whistleblower Tragically Found Dead: Key Details Unveiled

John Barnett was scheduled for a deposition on Saturday, a continuation of the testimony he had begun earlier in the week, concerning a legal tangle with his previous employer, Boeing. This company has been embroiled in safety controversies, some of which Barnett had brought to light. However, he failed to appear.

Repeated attempts by his legal representatives to reach him were unsuccessful, leading them to request a welfare check from the hotel where he was staying. Tragically, Barnett was discovered deceased in his truck in the hotel’s parking lot.

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office has communicated to the press that Barnett’s death seems to have been the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Charleston Police Department is actively investigating the circumstances surrounding his death.

Brian Knowles, Barnett’s attorney, expressed profound sorrow over the discovery to the legal news outlet Corporate Crime Reporter, which first broke the news of Barnett’s demise. Knowles shared that Barnett had been diligently preparing for the deposition, which was part of his case under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Whistleblower Protection Program, known as AIR21.

Barnett, originally from Louisiana and temporarily in South Carolina, was set to present evidence in a defamation lawsuit against Boeing. He accused the company of intentionally damaging his career and reputation in retaliation for his allegations of serious safety violations in the company’s manufacturing processes.

Boeing has expressed its condolences, stating, “We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Having dedicated over three decades of his life to Boeing as a quality control engineer and manager before retiring in 2017, the 62-year-old Barnett had been vocal about his concerns regarding the company’s safety standards. These concerns have recently attracted increased attention due to several high-profile incidents involving Boeing aircraft.

In 2019, following the catastrophic crashes of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 and a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX, Barnett revealed to the BBC that Boeing factory workers had been knowingly installing defective parts on planes to adhere to production schedules. He also highlighted a significant risk of failure in the oxygen masks on the 787 Dreamliner during emergencies. Despite raising these issues with Boeing managers and the FAA, no corrective actions were taken. Boeing, while denying the allegations, acknowledged that an inspection in 2017 revealed some oxygen bottles were not deploying correctly.

Barnett also disclosed to the New York Times in 2019 that he was once admonished for documenting process violations via email rather than in person, suggesting the company preferred not to have written records of such problems. In a 2014 performance review, his manager advised him to navigate “gray areas” more effectively while still complying with regulations.

In January, Boeing made headlines again when an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 was forced to make an emergency landing after an exit door malfunctioned mid-flight. Although no serious injuries occurred, largely due to fortunate circumstances, three passengers have filed a lawsuit against the airline and Boeing, seeking $1 billion in damages for severe psychological distress caused by alleged negligence.

Following the incident, Alaska Airlines temporarily grounded its Boeing 737-9 fleet, which was later cleared to resume flights. Barnett, however, pointed out to TMZ that the issue was not isolated to a single component or aircraft model but was indicative of broader quality control problems within Boeing.

The controversy has persisted, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that the Justice Department has initiated a criminal investigation into the incident. Boeing has faced criticism for its lack of cooperation with federal investigators and recently admitted to Congress its inability to locate records related to the malfunctioning door panel.

Earlier this month, the FAA disclosed that a six-week audit of Boeing and its subcontractor Spirit AeroSystems, conducted in the aftermath of the Alaska Airlines incident, uncovered several instances of non-compliance with manufacturing quality control standards.

Moreover, more than 50 passengers were injured after a LATAM Airlines Boeing 787 experienced a mid-air plunge during a flight from Australia to New Zealand, an incident described by the airline as a “technical event” and currently under investigation.

As Boeing’s reputation continues to suffer, its stock price has seen a significant decline, dropping by more than 26% since the beginning of the year, according to NASDAQ.

Barnett, in a conversation with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in January, emphasized that understanding the internal workings of Boeing is crucial to comprehending the nature of the issues the company faces.