American Airlines mechanic sabotaged flight so he could get overtime work, feds say

Plane carrying 150 people aborted before takeoff from Miami in July

MIAMI – An American Airlines mechanic, disgruntled about stalled union contract negotiations, disabled a navigation system on a flight scheduled to take off from Miami International Airport, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani is charged with willfully damaging, destroying or disabling an aircraft.

According to the complaint, Alani admitted to sabotaging the airplane July 17 as it was scheduled to fly from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas.

As the plane was preparing for takeoff, the flight crew noticed an error with the air data module system and the flight was aborted. An American Airlines mechanic later discovered a loosely connected tube that connects to the air data module system.

"Further inspection revealed the ADM appeared to have been deliberately obstructed with what appeared to be a dark Styrofoam-type material," Jose Ruiz, a senior federal air marshal with the Transportation Security Administration, wrote in the affidavit.

Upon reviewing surveillance video footage, Ruiz wrote, a man could be seen driving up next to the plane in a white pickup truck, getting out and accessing the compartment where the plane's ADM is located. The man, later identified as Alani, spent about seven minutes fidgeting with equipment in the compartment before he returned to his truck and drove away, Ruiz wrote.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani appears in federal court Friday in Miami.
Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani appears in federal court Friday in Miami.

When interviewed about the incident, Alani admitted to tampering with the ADM, inserting a piece of foam where the line connects to the system and then using super glue to keep the foam in place, the affidavit said.

"Alani stated that his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers," Ruiz wrote.

There were 150 people on the plane when the flight was aborted.

Rather, his motive stemmed from the stalled contract dispute between union workers and American Airlines, Alani confessed, according to the affidavit.

Alani claimed he tampered with the plane to cause a delay or have the flight canceled so he could obtain overtime work, Ruiz wrote.

An American Airlines representative said in a statement Friday that the passengers on the plane boarded a new aircraft, which then re-departed for Nassau.

"At American, we have an unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our customers and team members and we are taking this matter very seriously," the statement read. "At the time of the incident, the aircraft was taken out of service, maintenance was performed and, after an inspection to ensure it was safe, the aircraft was returned to service. American immediately notified federal law enforcement, who took over the investigation with our full cooperation."

Alani faced a judge Friday and was ordered to be held without bail. His pre-trial hearing is scheduled for next week. His arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 20.

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