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A Boeing Company whistleblower was discovered deceased in the United States amidst a legal struggle; however, what information did he disclose remains unclear

The Charleston County coroner has officially declared that the whistleblower passed away due to a “self-inflicted” injury.

John Barnett, a former Boeing Co. employee known for addressing production standards issues, was tragically found deceased on Monday outside a South Carolina hotel. This unfortunate event occurred amidst a legal dispute with the aviation company, as reported by the BBC. Barnett, 62, had a 32-year tenure with Boeing before retiring in 2017. He was also contributing evidence in a whistleblower lawsuit against the company.

In his career, he served as a quality manager at the North Charleston plant, which manufactures the 787 Dreamliner, a popular long-haul airliner. Following the sudden news of Barnett’s demise, Boeing expressed their sadness. The Charleston County coroner confirmed that Barnett’s death was due to a “self-inflicted” wound, and the police are currently investigating the matter.

What information did John Barnett disclose?

Barnett highlighted issues concerning the usage of substandard parts from scrap bins in the 787 aircraft’s production process, despite their failure in statistical testing. He also brought to light significant problems with oxygen systems, as one out of every four breathing masks might not function properly in emergencies.

Barnett expressed concerns about the rushed assembly of the aircraft, believing it could compromise safety. In 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted a review and validated Barnett’s concerns, discovering 53 parts in unidentified positions. Furthermore, Barnett uncovered that 25% of emergency oxygen systems on 787s were non-functional, potentially exacerbating pilots’ struggle to achieve normoxia (normal oxygen levels).

Later on, Boeing acknowledged that certain oxygen bottles were supplied by a vendor with improper functioning. Nonetheless, the company guaranteed that none of these problematic bottles were installed on any aircraft.

What happened next?

Following his retirement, Barnett filed a defamation lawsuit against Boeing, accusing the company of tarnishing his career and reputation following his whistleblowing activities. Barnett had been in Charleston for legal meetings related to this lawsuit and had previously given a formal deposition, where he was questioned by Boeing’s lawyers and later cross-examined by his own counsel. His unexpected absence during further inquiries on Saturday led to concerns, which eventually led to the discovery of his body in his truck at his hotel’s parking lot.

This unfortunate event occurs amid heightened attention on production standards at Boeing and its primary supplier, Spirit Aero Systems, following an incident in January when an emergency exit door detached from a Boeing 737 Max shortly after takeoff from Portland International Airport.

The US National Transportation Safety Board disclosed that four crucial bolts, responsible for securing the door, were missing in a recent incident. In the meantime, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced last week that a six-week audit of the company had uncovered “several instances where the company allegedly did not adhere to manufacturing quality control requirements.”

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