Flight Sabotaged

PUBLISHED: 1:00 PM 6 Sep 2019
UPDATED: 4:51 PM 6 Sep 2019

Flight Sabotaged: Airline Employee Ahmed Alani Charged With Disabling Nav. System

The ‘veteran’ employee claimed that he tampered with the plane to “obtain overtime work.”

The motive was allegedly money.

An American Airlines mechanic, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, has been arrested for criminal tampering with the navigation system on a plane.

And, during subsequent interviews with authorities, Ahmed Alani claimed that he sabotaged the flight in order to obtain “overtime” work after union contract negotiations stalled.

The Associated Press reported:

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.

When mechanics examined the plane, they found a piece of foam glued inside a navigation system part called an air data module. Video from an American Airlines surveillance camera 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.

The Miami Herald reported:

As a result [of the sabotage], flight No. 2834 was aborted and taken out of service for routine maintenance at America’s hangar at MIA, which is when the tampering with the ADM system was discovered during an inspection.

An AA mechanic found a loosely connected tube in front of the nose gear underneath the cockpit that had been deliberately obstructed with some sort of hard foam material.

Alani is charged with “willfully damaging, destroying or disabling an aircraft” and is expected to have his first appearance in Miami federal court on Friday.

According to the complaint filed Thursday, Alani glued the foam inside the tube leading from outside the plane to its air data module, a system that reports aircraft speed, pitch and other critical flight data. As a result, if the plane had taken off that day from MIA, the pilots would have had to operate the aircraft manually because the ADM system would not have received any computer data.

After his arrest Thursday, the affidavit says that Alani told federal air marshals assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that “his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers.”

He said that his motive in tampering with the navigational system was because he was “upset” over stalled contract negotiations between the mechanics’ union and American Airlines that has raged for months — that “the dispute had affected him financially.”

He further said he only tampered with the plane’s air data module “in order to cause a delay or have the flight canceled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work,” according to the affidavit.

Relations have become so strained between the 12,000-employee mechanics’ union and American Airlines that the organization vowed a “bloody” battle over the course of the summer that has led to bitter legal fights in Texas, where the company is headquartered.

Alani, the federal charges said, spent about seven minutes doing the sabotage.