Boeing whistleblower found dead after testifying against company

Published 14 March 2024
- By Editorial Staff
John Barnett lived to be 62 years old.

Two days after testifying against aviation giant Boeing, whistleblower John Barnett, 62, was found dead in his truck in the car park of his South Carolina hotel.

The official cause of death is suicide by “self-inflicted” gunshot wound, but many – including Barnett’s lawyer – are sceptical of this explanation.

Barnett was due to give further testimony against Boeing – but never showed up, and was instead found dead in his car.

The whistleblower, who worked for Boeing for more than 32 years, had previously described how the aircraft manufacturer deliberately cut costs and increased profitability by installing substandard parts on the company’s planes, and discovered major problems with oxygen systems and other problems that managers refused to fix because of time and cost constraints.

Barnett has also testified that the company’s management wants to get its newly produced aircraft into the air as quickly as possible, and that assembly workers are therefore working under very tight time constraints – which in turn risks jeopardising the safety of passengers and flight crews.

Airline executives have consistently dismissed Barnett’s testimony – despite independent audits confirming parts of his story.

After first speaking out about wrongdoing at the aircraft manufacturer, he and others have also pursued a long-running lawsuit against Boeing, accusing the company of character assassination and depriving him of job opportunities.

Boeing offers condolences

Barnett’s lawyer, Brian Knowles, has questioned whether the whistleblower actually killed himself in the middle of a trial, calling the suicide “suspicious”.

– Today is a tragic day. 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, he says.

He goes on to explain that they called the informant’s phone on Saturday, but no one answered, so they contacted the hotel staff to check on him.

– They found him in his truck dead from an ‘alleged’ self-inflicted gunshot. We drove to the hotel and spoke with the police and the coroner.

Boeing says it is “saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing” and that its “thoughts are with his family and friends”.

The aerospace giant has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months as a series of new problems with its planes have come to light. In January, a door blew open during a flight and US authorities found a number of “unacceptable” quality control problems during an audit of Boeing and its supplier Spirit AeroSystems.

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