An American Airlines mechanic from Miami International Airport was arrested on Thursday on charges that he sabotaged the navigation equipment of a flight carrying 150 people, forcing it to be grounded just before takeoff, reports Miami Herald.
According to a criminal complaint affidavit filed in federal court, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, the mechanic who is now accused of sabotaging flight equipment admitted on Thursday that he tampered with a navigation system on the plane so that he could collect overtime work.
Abdul Majeed confessed that he had tampered with the air data module system on Flight 2834 from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas on July 17 because he was disgruntled about an impasse over a union contract, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.
Fortunately, none of the passengers and crew on the flight to Nassau were injured because the tampering with the air data module caused an error alert as the pilots fired up the plane’s engines on the runway July 17.
As a result, flight No. 2834, a Boeing 737-800 aircraft was aborted and taken out of service for routine maintenance at America’s hangar at Miami international airport. Later, 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 now 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 investigators, security camera footage has revealed that Alani had gained access to the compartment housing the plane’s air data module system, where he inserted a piece of foam to obstruct the equipment. The federal charges said Alani spent about seven minutes doing the sabotage.
Reportedly, 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, which 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 cancelled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work,” according to the affidavit.
The mechanics’ union and American Airlines are fighting a “bloody” battle over the course of the summer that has led to bitter legal fights in Texas, where the company is headquartered affecting more than 12,000 employees.
The air marshals, part of the Transportation Security Administration, also conducted interviews with three other AA mechanics who were with Alani after he tampered with the plane. They helped investigators identify him from the video footage. Alani was charged with willfully damaging or disabling an aircraft.