April 19, 2024


Boeing has been the subject of a federal investigation ever since January, when an Alaska Airlines flight involving one of its planes had its door blown out. Since then, concerns about the safety of Boeing’s production process have swirled and investigators have sought to determine just how such a thing happened.

This week, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, Jennifer Homendy, told senators that the agency’s investigation into the troubled flight was having difficulty because Boeing had not retained the kind of documentation necessary to understand how the door had malfunctioned.

“To date, we still do not know who performed the work to open, reinstall, and close the door plug on the accident aircraft,” Homendy wrote in a letter to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. “Boeing has informed us that they are unable to find the records documenting this work. A verbal request was made by our investigators for security camera footage to help obtain this information; however, they were informed the footage was overwritten. The absence of those records will complicate the NTSB’s investigation moving forward.”

When reached for comment by Gizmodo, a Boeing official said that video recordings were only “maintained on a rolling 30-day basis” and that after that they were overwritten. In this case, the plane in question was repaired sometime prior to October 31, which is the date when it was delivered to Alaska Airlines for use. The plane’s troubled flight occurred on January 5, some two-ish months later, which would’ve put it outside the 30 day window.

Boeing’s crisis continues to escalate

In addition to the very real problems with its aircraft, Boeing has a whole other, weirder problem on its hands, in the form of John Barnett. A former corporate whistleblower, Barnett was found dead last week at a motel in South Carolina. While the local coroner’s office has said that Barnett’s death appears to have occurred as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the odd circumstances around his death have quickly spawned conspiracy theories, spurring a broader public relations crisis for the company.

For one thing, Barnett was involved in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against Boeing at the time of his death and was in the middle of conducting depositions when he died. He was scheduled to appear in court for yet another deposition when motel staff found him dead in his truck.

Since then, people who say they knew or worked with Barnett have claimed they have doubts about his death being a suicide. A woman who says she is a “family friend” of the whistleblower claims Barnett once told her “If anything happens to me, it’s not suicide.” Meanwhile, employees who work at the plant where Barnett was previously employed have expressed doubt that he killed himself. Staff at the motel where Barnett was staying at the time of his death have said that he “did not seem upset at all” on the evening before he died.

Barnett’s attorneys have similarly said that they want “more information” about what happened to their client. They said Barnett was “in good spirits” in the days before his death and that “no one can believe” that he killed himself.

That said, Barnett’s own family have blamed Boeing for his death, albeit in a very different way than online conspiracy theorists: “He was suffering from PTSD and anxiety attacks as a result of being subjected to the hostile work environment at Boeing which we believe led to his death,” reads a statement released by family members, including Barnett’s brother.

Boeing has responded to the ongoing speculation and outcry about Barnett’s death with a simple statement: “We are saddened by Mr. Barnett’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

A version of this article originally appeared on Gizmodo.



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