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Coverup Continues? Boeing ‘Overwrote’ Security Footage

Crony capitalist company continues to hide the ball …

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Crony capitalist aerospace giant Boeing is facing fresh scrutiny after it allegedly overwrote security footage of factory work done on the Alaska Airlines jet that experienced a mid-air blowout two months ago.

The jet in question – a 737 Max 9 identical to the aircraft pictured above – was worked on at Boeing’s Renton, Washington, facility in September 2023 prior to being delivered to Alaska Airlines. On January 5, 2024, a fuselage panel on the jet blew out mid-flight – endangering the lives of 177 passengers and crew.

In a letter (.pdf) sent to the U.S. Senate from the leader of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), federal investigators still have no idea “who performed the work to open, reinstall, and close the door plug on the accident aircraft.”

“Boeing has informed us that they are unable to find the records documenting this work,” NTSB chairwoman Jennifer Homendy wrote to members of the Senate’s commerce, science and transportation committee. “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.”

As for the crew manager overseeing the work on the plane, Boeing said this individual was on “medical leave” and his attorney advised the agency he would “not be able to provide a statement” to NTSB – or give investigators an interview – owing to his “medical issues.”

(Click to View)

NTSB director Jennifer Homendy. (X)

After receiving this response, Homendy reached out to Boeing chief executive officer David Calhoun in an attempt to find out what happened to the plane while it was at the Renton factory.

“He was unable to provide that information and maintained that Boeing has no records of the work being performed,” Homendy informed senators.

News of these curiously convenient lapses in documentation come on the heels of an ongoing police investigation into the suspicious suicide of one of Boeing’s former employees – a corporate whistleblower who was in the middle of a deposition involving the aerospace giant.

Our media outlet reported extensively earlier this week on the death of 62-year-old John Barnett of Pineville, Louisiana. Barnett spent 28 years at Boeing’s Everett, Washington headquarters as a quality control leader. In 2010, he was transferred to the company’s taxpayer-subsidized North Charleston facility – which manufactures the much-maligned 787 Dreamliner. He retired from the company in 2017, and shortly thereafter began exposing shoddy workmanship at Boeing – especially at its Palmetto State location.

“I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I would consider safe and airworthy,” Barnett told reporter Nadia Daly of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in January of 2020.

More recently, Barnett was critical of production defects on Boeing planes – specifically the 737 Max – and the company’s culture of silencing those who sought to put safety first.

(Click to View)

An Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 departs Boston for Seattle on July 11, 2023. (Tim/Flickr)

Barnett was discovered dead outside of his Charleston, South Carolina hotel after failing to appear for the final day of an extended deposition related to a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit. His attorney, Brian Knowles, referred to the 62-year-old Louisiana native’s death as “a tragic day.”

“(We) kept calling this morning and his phone would go to voicemail,” Knowles told Corporate Crime Reporter. “We then asked the hotel to check on him.”

According an incident report obtained by FITSNews (.pdf) hotel personnel reported finding a male in a “Clemson orange” Dodge Ram pickup truck with a firearm “in his hand” prior to the arrival of city of Charleston police officers.

Once on scene, officers “cautiously approached” the truck, finding Barnett unresponsive “in the driver’s seat with what appeared to be a silver handgun in his right hand resting on his lap, and his right pointer finger still remaining on the trigger.”

According to the report, Barnett “had what appeared to be a gunshot wound near his right temple, and showed no signs of life.”

“Laying in plain view on the passenger seat was a white piece of paper that closely resembled a note,” the report added.

No details regarding the contents of the note were included in the incident report – and investigators with the Charleston, S.C. police department have not commented on whether it was suicide note.

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Barnett had been outspoken in recent months – criticizing a “culture of speed” at Boeing that allegedly subordinated safety concerns to the company’s production schedules.

“Once you understand what’s happening inside of Boeing, you’ll see why we’re seeing these kinds of issues,” he told Daly in January of this year. “This is a Boeing issue, this is not a 737 issue.”

The 737 Max was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on March 13, 2019 after two crashes left a combined 346 people dead. In both instances, problems with the planes’ automated flight-control systems were singled out as being to blame. The automated flight-control system was intended to prevent the aircraft from stalling, but faulty sensor data reportedly forced pilots to struggle against its unintended activation. The 737 Max returned to flight on December 29, 2020, but has continued to be dogged by problems.

Barnett’s death coincided with the escalation of several federal investigations into Boeing.

Just this week, The New York Times reported Boeing had failed 33 of 89 performance audits tied to the 737 Max’s manufacturing process. The FAA initiated its inquiry after the Alaska Airlines’ incident. Also this week, The Wall Street Journal reported the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched a criminal investigation into the company in the aftermath of the incident – seeking to determine whether Boeing violated the terms of its January 2021 settlement with the agency following the two fatal crashes.

Boeing paid out $2.5 billion in that settlement – $1.77 billion to 737 Max customers, $500 million to the families of the crash victims and a “criminal monetary penalty” of $243.6 million to the federal government.

Boeing received a cool $1 billion in taxpayer subsidies to locate its 787 Dreamliner manufacturing facility in North Charleston in 2009. This media outlet opposed those subsidies, and has been among the aerospace giant’s most consistent critics over the past fifteen years.

BANNER VIA: Glenn Beltz/Flickr

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.

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1 comment

Joseph Jeter Top fan March 16, 2024 at 6:33 am

Most companies rarely keep security footage more than a few weeks. It’s extremely expensive to store that much video for extended periods of time.

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