March 13, 2024 

 Mourning the Death of Boeing Whistleblower John Barnett 

CHARLESTON– Yesterday, Boeing whistleblower and former client, John Barnett, was confirmed dead at the age of 62 after heroically testifying in intense depositions against his former employer in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit. We send condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Barnett and to his entire legal team at Knowles Law Firm and the Law Office of Robert M. Turkewitz.   

As a former quality control manager, Barnett went public with concerns about airline safety issues with Boeing’s commercial passenger planes. His formal whistleblower complaint against the company mentioned his attempts to raise quality and safety problems internally, but Boeing ignored his concerns and  retaliated against him. He spent his career at its plants in Everett, Washington and North Charleston, South Carolina and repeatedly alleged the company’s culture that prioritized profits over quality and passenger safety. Mr. Barnett received the 2019 Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage award, a special award that honors whistleblowers for the courage and fortitude they exhibit in revealing corruption and unethical practices in the public and private sector. 

We have worked with his attorneys in support of his ongoing whistleblower case and to advocate for Congress to reform Air21, the federal whistleblower law meant to protect air safety whistleblowers that desperately needs to be strengthened to be effective. Mr. Barnett’s death perhaps could have been prevented if Congress took action to fix the glaring weaknesses in the law that has failed to protect Mr. Barnett and others. Boeing’s assault on Mr. Barnett’s free speech rights was relentless, and reflects recent findings by the FAA-convened expert panel that validated Mr. Barnett’s concerns about serious weaknesses in Boeing’s safety culture, including retaliation against employees who raise safety concerns. The risks to the public from unsafe aircraft could not be higher; ensuring that employees like John Barnett are protected from reprisal when they identify safety problems also protects the public.  

Mr. Barnett’s death is a tragedy for the entire whistleblowing community. Coming forward can take an immense mental and emotional toll. The fight for the truth and justice can become a devastating process when whistleblowers are not supported and believed. Whistleblowing should never cost someone their life. We will continue our work advocating and fighting for whistleblowers like Mr. Barnett, and we ask Congress to take immediate action to prevent others from suffering the same fate by amending Air21 and demanding transparency and accountability from Boeing. 

Our legal director Tom Devine, who worked with Mr. Barnett, shared our grief:  

“John Barnett was the pioneer whistleblower who warned after the last Boeing 737 tragedy that the public remains at risk. Recent events have made him a prophet. Mr. Barnett was a public servant who defended quality control and consumer safety at an institution that viewed those duties as obstacles to productivity and profit. While he has died, dangerous practices remain alive and well. It is time for Congress and the airlines industry to wake up and start protecting the public.”   

Contact: Mary Allain, Interim Communications Director 
Phone: (202) 926-3304 
Email: [email protected] 


This release was updated March 14th at 9:30am to include the Law Office of Robert M. Turkewitz.