An American Airlines mechanic is accused of sabotaging a
flight over stalled union contract negotiations.
According to a criminal complaint affidavit filed in federal
court, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani admitted during an interview Thursday
that he tampered with a navigation system on the plane so that he could collect
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.
When he was interviewed Thursday, "Alani stated that
his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers,"
according to the affidavit by Jose A. Ruiz, a federal air marshal who serves on
an FBI terrorism task force.
Alani explained that stalled contract negotiations between
American Airlines and the mechanics' unions were hurting him financially, and
he tampered with the plane "to cause a delay or have the flight canceled
in anticipation of obtaining overtime work," Ruiz wrote.
American has accused mechanics of an illegal work slowdown
that has led to hundreds of canceled flights in recent months. The airline
successfully sued two unions that represent the workers. This week, both sides
announced that they will resume negotiations Sept. 16 in Washington, with help
from a federal mediator. The mechanics' unions have been trying to secure a new
contract for more than three years.
In a statement, American Airlines said it cooperated fully
with the investigation "and we are taking this matter very seriously."
The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline said the plane was taken out of service
after the July incident and repaired and inspected before it was allowed to fly
Alani was charged with willfully damaging or disabling an
aircraft. He is expected to appear in federal court in Miami on Friday.