Former Boeing Employee Who Raised Safety Concerns Found Dead

John Barnett, a former quality manager at Boeing (NYSE: BA) who had raised concerns about production standards at the company, has died at age 62 in an apparent suicide. Barnett worked for Boeing for over 30 years until retiring in 2017.

In the days leading up to his death on March 9th, Barnett had been providing testimony in a whistleblower lawsuit he had filed against the aerospace giant. He had accused Boeing of retaliating against him and hampering his career after he flagged issues like the installation of defective parts and problems with emergency oxygen systems on the 787 Dreamliner production line in South Carolina.

Barnett claimed workers at the North Charleston plant were facing intense pressure to meet production targets, leading to safety issues being overlooked. He alleged substandard parts were sometimes pulled from scrap bins and fitted to planes to avoid delays. He also said tests showed a 25% failure rate for oxygen masks meant for the Dreamliner.

While Boeing denied Barnett’s specific allegations, a 2017 Federal Aviation Administration review did substantiate some of his concerns about nonconforming parts going missing at the factory. The company was ordered to take corrective action.


At the time of his death, Barnett was in Charleston to provide deposition testimony related to his lawsuit. He had been cross-examined by Boeing lawyers just days earlier. The Charleston County coroner confirmed Barnett died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and that police are investigating the circumstances.

Boeing said it was “saddened” by Barnett’s passing, while his lawyer called it a “tragic” occurrence. 

Meanwhile, on Monday evening, the New York Times reported that Boeing “failed 33 of 89 audits during an examination conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration after a panel blew off an Alaska Airlines jet in January.”

In one instance, the FAA said that mechanics for Spirit AeroSystems (NYSE: SPR), the company that makes the fuselage of the 737 Max, used dishwashing soap as a “lubricant in the fit-up process” of a door seal. This door seal was then cleaned with a wet cheesecloth, according to the audit. It also noted that instructions were “vague and unclear on what specifications/actions are to be followed or recorded by the mechanic.” 

They were also observed to have used a hotel key card to check a door seal. 

Information for this story was found via the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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