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Boeing Whistleblower John Barnett Found Dead in South Carolina

Barnett's death comes just days after he was scheduled to participate in a deposition involving the manufacturer.

A Boeing 777X testplane taxis out for its first flight. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Zera)

John Barnett, a 62-year-old former Boeing quality manager who raised concerns about production standards on the company’s airplanes, was found dead last week in his truck at a Charleston, S.C. hotel. Barnett was scheduled to participate in a follow-up deposition related to a whistleblower lawsuit he filed against Boeing in 2020, according to the BBC.

Barnett’s attorney, Brian Knowles, confirmed the death but withheld details on the cause, citing the ongoing investigation. In a statement, Knowles called the death “tragic.”

Barnett’s lawsuit alleged retaliation from Boeing after he flagged quality control issues during his tenure at the company. He specifically raised concerns about parts manufactured for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner program. The lawsuit was filed under the provisions of the AIR21 Whistleblower Protection Program, which protects whistleblowers who report safety concerns within the aviation industry.

In a statement to the BBC, Boeing said, “We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.” The company previously denied the allegations in Barnett’s lawsuit, stating they addressed his concerns appropriately and did not retaliate against him.

Barnett’s case comes amid ongoing scrutiny of Boeing’s production practices following two fatal crashes of the company’s 737 MAX airplane in 2018 and 2019. Most recently, a door plug flew off an Alaska 737 MAX 9, prompting investigations into the manufacturer’s quality control processes.

The Charleston Police Department confirmed on Tuesday that it is investigating Barnett’s death. Initial reports indicate that Barnett died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“Detectives are actively investigating this case and are awaiting the formal cause of death, along with any additional findings that might shed further light on the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Barnett,” said Sgt. Gibson of the Charleston Police told WCBD-TV.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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