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Boeing Whistleblower Found Dead After Testifying Against Company

Boeing Whistleblower Found Dead After Testifying Against Company

BY LUKAS WOERNER Published on May 01, 2024 0 COMMENTS

In March of 2024, a former Boeing employee and prominent whistleblower was mysteriously found dead in South Carolina. 62-year-old John Barnett was a Boeing employee for 32 years, and upon his retirement from the company raised several safety concerns regarding the production of several aircraft types. In 2019, the former quality manager raised issues over the 787-production line, as well as concerning comments to management at Boeing. 

 

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 of Cayman Airways. The 737 MAX 8 has had numerous issues in the past few years leading to a year long grounding of the aircraft type after two crashes in the late 2010s | Image: Alex Tait, AeroXplorer

 

According to the Charleston County coroner’s office, John Barnett was found to have a “self-inflicted” gunshot wound in his car in a hotel parking lot. Condolences are reserved for Barnett’s family and friends as an investigation into the incident continues. Currently, the City of Charleston Police are examining if any additional information in motive is available.

 



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Barnett’s sudden death comes at a very peculiar time, as  in recent months, incidents involving Boeing planes have been on the rise. Faulty equipment, safety issues, and structural challenges have all faced the US-based company, with these issues being identified on Boeing aircraft multiple times in recent weeks. 

 

During a period of 6 months between October of 2018 and March of 2019, two Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets crashed, resulting in the deaths of 346 people. In 2024, a number of events have also occurred involving new Boeing jets, namely a panel blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight in January

 

The publicly traded company has experienced major losses as a result. Listed as BA on the New York Stock Exchange, Boeing stock has gone down by 28 percent since the start of 2024, resulting in a loss of over USD 70 per share. This has represented the largest dip in stock price for Boeing since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.

 

According to other media sources, John Barnett initially launched his whistleblower complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in January of 2017. In the seven years since, a series of delays, countermotions, and dismissal appeals have lengthened the ongoing legal proceedings. To note, typical whistleblower complaints are resolved fairly quickly, with lengthier ones traditionally involving larger systematic issues. 

 



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As part of his complaint, Mr. Barnett mentioned that working at Boeing included being subjected to a “hostile work environment” and running into frequent “constructive discharge.” 

 

Recent information has suggested that most of quality control issues related to the Boeing 787’s production have stemmed from Boeing's out production facility located in North Charleston, South Carolina.

 

Boeing's North Charleston plant has garnered quite the negative reputation in the aviation industry as being unregulated and decentralized. Incidents involving missing parts and defective components being discarded poorly have resulted in poor products (mainly aircraft such as the 787) being produced. Boeing employees were alleged to have used items from “scrap bins” on the production line to build aircraft at the plant. 

 



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According to the South Carolina Department of Commerce, Boeing employs around 7,500 employees in the state. Although the company's production facility manufactures additional parts for small airliners, the prominent aircraft manufactured on-site is the 787 Dreamliner series of aircraft. 

 

The 787 Dreamliner was launched in 2009, with there currently being about 1,100 total aircraft of this type in service. As part of Barnett’s whistleblower complaint about the 787, he alleged that the oxygen deployment system was not operating properly on the aircraft, with many failing to deploy during testing.

 

As the investigation into John Barnett's passing continues, it will be fascinating to see how the FAA and Boeing will continue with any ongoing legal proceedings against Boeing. As of April 2024, Barnett's  initial whistleblower case was still pending.

 

 

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STORIES DeathBoeingSouth CarolinaNewsProductionLegal Quality Control United States

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