Disputed Whistleblower Death Adds to Boeing Troubles

The death of a whistleblower is only the latest misfortune to befall the battered aviation company.

What’s happening: A whistleblower who alleged a variety of technical failings in Boeing’s aircraft production has died under disputed circumstances.

  • Catch up: John Barnett, a former quality manager at Boeing, spoke out in 2019 about substandard parts used in aircraft manufacturing. Barnett was giving his testimony against Boeing when he was found dead on March 9.

The details: The Charleston County coroner declared Barnett died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. However, Barnett’s friend alleged that he told her, “If anything happens to me, it’s not a suicide,” and he was reportedly in good spirits just before the time of his death.

Falling out of the sky: Boeing has faced numerous catastrophic events related to its airframes within the past six years. Two deadly crashes forced the grounding of all 737 Max airframes, and just this year, a door on a 737 Max flew off due to four missing bolts, while another 787 injured multiple passengers in an unexpected dive.

  • More: Boeing has also suffered several failures and setbacks related to its Starliner Crew Capsule’s missions to the International Space Station. Some have drawn a connection between Boeing management’s alleged prioritization of DEI policies and their failure to retain high-quality engineers and maximize safety.

Why it matters: Boeing’s string of disasters raises questions about the untimely death of the whistleblower testifying against them. As the company’s integrity comes under question, Barnett’s death may serve to put their airliners’ feet to the fire.