Boeing Whistleblower Found Dead in Car by Apparent Suicide

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
March 12, 2024US News
Boeing Whistleblower Found Dead in Car by Apparent Suicide
A worker leaves the Boeing 737 factory in Renton, Wash., on Dec. 16, 2019. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

John Barnett, a whistleblower who had been involved in a lawsuit against Boeing, died of an apparent suicide, according to officials in South Carolina.

The 62-year-old was found dead “from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the Charleston County Coroner’s office told The Epoch Times in a statement.

The coroner did not release additional details surrounding Mr. Barnett’s death, and the Charleston City Police Department is currently investigating the incident.

Mr. Barnett, who had served over 30 years at Boeing until 2017, had become a vocal critic of the company’s safety and production quality practices. At the time of his death, he was a key witness in a whistleblower lawsuit against Boeing, in which he claimed the company retaliated against him for repeatedly reporting defects.

His body was discovered in a vehicle on the same day he was scheduled to appear in court.

Boeing expressed its condolences in a statement to The Epoch Times, saying, “We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.” The aircraft manufacturer did not comment on the allegations made by Mr. Barnett.

In a recent live-streamed interview on TMZ, Mr. Barnett, who carried out safety checks and oversaw aircraft production, raised concerns about Boeing’s quality control issues, specifically within the 737 and 787 aircraft programs. He claimed that the removal of inspection operations from jobs had led to defects and safety problems.

Mr. Barnett pointed to a recent high-profile incident involving a door plug blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight, asserting that this may not be an isolated occurrence and that the entire airplane could have quality control issues.

“This is not a 737 problem; it’s a Boeing problem,” Mr. Barnett said.

The door plug blowout on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 while mid-air on Jan. 5 forced an emergency landing and led to the temporary grounding of such aircraft and intense scrutiny of Boeing by federal regulators.

According to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board, the panel covering an unused door came off during flight because four bolts that were supposed to be holding it in place were missing.

Boeing admitted in mid-January that its 737 Max production quality wasn’t up to standard and soon after ousted Ed Clark, who headed the 737 Max program. The company said the ousting comes as part of an increased focus on safety.

The incident led the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ground all 737 Max 9s, order “enhanced inspections” on the planes, and launch an investigation into Boeing to see if the company failed to ensure proper production safety standards.

Boeing stated in January that it was cooperating fully with the probe.

However, Mr. Barnett said his concerns were greater than the door plug blowout, expanding to the overall condition of Boeing airplanes due to the elimination of inspection operations. He alleged that Boeing had removed these operations, leaving mechanics to handle their own work, resulting in incomplete and improperly inspected jobs.

“My concerns are with the 737 and 787 because those programs have really embraced the theory that quality is overhead and non-value-added. So those two programs have really put a strong effort into removing quality from the process,” Mr. Barnett said during the interview.

The whistleblower recounted an experience in 2012 when he claimed to have identified roughly 300 defects at a supplier, Spirit Aerosystems, only to discover later that inspectors sent after him were given limited time and were lauded for finding fewer issues. This raised questions about the integrity of Boeing’s quality control procedures, according to Mr. Barnett.

As investigations continue into Mr. Barnett’s death, the aviation industry and federal authorities have ramped up scrutiny of Boeing.

Earlier this month, the FAA said that its audit of Boeing found “multiple instances” where the company allegedly failed to comply with manufacturing quality control requirements.

“The FAA identified non-compliance issues in Boeing’s manufacturing process control, parts handling and storage, and product control,” the aviation regulate stated.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said that Boeing is under rigorous scrutiny.

From The Epoch Times

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