American Airlines Mechanic Accused of Sabotaging Plane

Feds say he did it to get more overtime
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 6, 2019 12:58 AM CDT
Updated Sep 6, 2019 6:00 AM CDT
American Airlines Mechanic Accused of Sabotaging Plane
American Airlines aircraft are shown parked at their gates at Miami International Airport.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

An American Airlines mechanic is accused of sabotaging a flight over stalled union contract negotiations. According to a criminal complaint affidavit filed in federal court, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani admitted during an interview Thursday that he tampered with a navigation system on the plane so that he could collect overtime work. The plane, with 150 people on board, was scheduled to fly from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas on July 17. As the pilots powered up the plane at Miami International Airport, they saw an error message for a system that tracks speed, nose direction, and other critical flight information and aborted the takeoff, the AP report. When mechanics examined the plane, they found a piece of foam glued inside a navigation system part called an air data module.

Surveillance video captured a person who drove up to the plane, got out, and spent seven minutes working around the compartment containing the navigation system, according to the affidavit. The person was later identified by co-workers as Alani, in part by his distinctive limp, the affidavit said. When he was interviewed Thursday, "Alani stated that his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers," according to the affidavit by Jose A. Ruiz, a federal air marshal who serves on an FBI terrorism task force. Alani explained that stalled contract negotiations between American Airlines and the mechanics' unions were hurting him financially, and he tampered with the plane "to cause a delay or have the flight cancelled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work," Ruiz wrote. Alani was charged with willfully damaging or disabling an aircraft. He is expected to appear in federal court in Miami on Friday.

(More American Airlines stories.)

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