American Airlines mechanic accused of alleged sabotage of Miami flight

Published on : Friday, September 6, 2019

American Airlines’ acrimonious labour dispute with its mechanics escalated from major summer travel annoyance to a scary situation Thursday when a mechanic was arrested for allegedly trying to sabotage a July flight with 150 people on board.


Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, a 60-year-old mechanic at American’s Miami hub, was charged with “willfully damaging, destroying, disabling, or wrecking an aircraft” in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami.


The tampering was discovered after American pilots got an error message as Flight 2834 from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas, was getting ready to depart on July 17. They aborted takeoff, and the plane was taken off service to be inspected.


Surveillance footage shows Alani at the gate before the flight and the complaint says he deliberately obstructed the ADM (air data module) system using a dark, Styrofoam-type material.


Alani told law enforcement officials he was “upset at the stalled contract dispute between the union workers and American Airlines, and that this dispute had affected him financially.”


Alani, who has worked at American since 1988, said he did not intend to harm the plane or passengers. He said he tampered with the plane to cause a flight delay or cancellation in hopes of earning overtime, the complaint says. He is due to make his first court appearance Friday afternoon in Miami.


American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein issued this statement late Thursday in response to the criminal complaint:


“On July 17, flight 2834 from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas, returned to the gate due to a maintenance issue. Passengers 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. 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.”


American filed a lawsuit in May against its mechanics unions, saying a concerted work slowdown caused thousands of flight cancellations and delays.


American said mechanics were unlawfully engaging in a slowdown to gain leverage in negotiations. The lawsuit said they were taking an “inordinately long time to repair aircraft” and refusing to work overtime.


“The odds of this being random as opposed to concerted activity is less than one-in-one billion,” the lawsuit says.


The TWU/IAM Association, which represents 30,000 mechanics and other ground workers at American, on Friday condemned the incident, issuing a statement signed by director Sito Pantoja and vice director Alex Garcia.


“The TWU/IAM Association condemns, in the strongest possible terms, any conduct by any individual that jeopardizes the safe operation of an aircraft. Safety is the number one priority for our IAM and TWU members involved in the maintenance and operation of aircraft. These members are the most highly trained safety professionals in the airline industry. As a result, the US air transportation system is the safest in the world. Any conduct that jeopardises that safety is not tolerated or condoned by the leadership or members of our organizations.”


American President Robert Isom acknowledged the airline’s mass flight cancellations due to an allegedly illegal slowdown at an investor conference in Boston Wednesday, noting that a labour leader warned him it was going to be a “long, hot summer”.

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