Boeing Whistleblower Who Warned Of Aircraft Safety Problems Found Dead
The Boeing logo on a building at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, US, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. Boeing Co. is scheduled to release earnings figures on July 26.
David Ryder / Bloomberg via Getty Images

A former Boeing employee who raised safety concerns related to the company’s aircraft production was found dead this week.

Former Boeing quality manager John Barnett, who The New York Times described as a “prominent” whistleblower, was in Charleston, South Carolina, this week for a deposition for a lawsuit that he filed against Boeing. The lawsuit alleges that the company retaliated against Barnett for raising his safety concerns with the U.S. Labor Department in 2017 under the AIR21 Whistleblower Protection Program.

The Charleston Police Department was dispatched on Saturday morning to conduct a welfare check at a Holiday Inn hotel and discovered Barnett, 62, sitting inside a vehicle with a “gunshot wound to the head,” police said.

Police said that it appeared as though the fatal gunshot wound was “self-inflicted,” but added that the detectives and the coroner were still investigating to make an official determination about his cause of death.

“We understand the global attention this case has garnered, and it is our priority to ensure that the investigation is not influenced by speculation but is led by facts and evidence,” the department added. “Given the sensitive nature of the investigation, we are unable to participate in media interviews at this time. This stance is not unique to this case but is a standard procedure we adhere to in order to preserve the integrity of active investigations. Public disclosure will follow the investigation’s conclusion.”

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

Barnett had warned that at Boeing’s South Carolina plant, clusters of metal shavings had been left inside the plane hanging over wiring that commands the plane’s flight controls, The New York Times reported in 2019. He warned that if the metal shavings penetrated the wires, the results could be catastrophic.


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

He also discovered that there were allegedly problems with the plane’s oxygen systems, which meant that some breathing devices may not work during an emergency.

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