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Florida Airline Mechanic Charged With Sabotaging Plane That Had 150 People On Board

By  Hank Berrien
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On Thursday, an American Airlines mechanic was arrested on a charge of sabotage after it was discovered he had allegedly purposely disabled a navigation system on a flight with 150 people in July.

The Miami Herald reports that Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, 60, is accused of manipulating the air data module on a plane due to take off from Miami International Airport. The complaint affidavit stated:

Just prior to taking the departure runway, the flight crew increased power to the engines to pre-position the Target Aircraft for takeoff. The action of powering up the Target Aircraft’s engine resulted in an error related to the air data module (ADM) system which, in part, records aircraft speed, pitch, and other critical flight data. The takeoff was ordered aborted and the Target Aircraft was directed to return to MIA’s concourse D, gate 48, for maintenance.

The affidavit continued, “An AA mechanic discovered a loosely connected pitot tube, which connects directly to the ADM. Further inspection revealed the ADM appeared to have been deliberately obstructed with what appeared to be a dark Styrofoam-type material.”

The aircraft was deemed flyable the next morning.

The Herald reports:

According to the complaint affidavit, 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.

The affidavit also states that Alani claimed his actions were triggered by the dispute between the mechanics’ union and American Airlines, which “had affected him financially.” The affidavit noted Alani claimed he wanted to cause a delay or cancellation so he could gain overtime work. Alani told federal air marshals that he didn’t want to harm the plane or the passengers.

Federal air marshals watched video footage showing Alani gaining access to the aircraft’s compartment where the navigation system was located, taking seven minutes to finish his work. Three other AA mechanics helped identify Alani.

The complaint affidavit notes that on September 5, “Alani admitted he accessed the ADM in the Target Aircraft’s forward E&E compartment. He further admitted that he inserted a piece of foam into the ADM’s inlet where the line connects and that he applied super glue to the foam so as to prevent the foam coming off.”

On Friday morning, American Airlines released this statement:

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.

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