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American Airlines mechanic charged with sabotaging navigation system of plane carrying 150 people

September 06, 2019 at 02:30 pm | News

Etsey Atisu

Etsey Atisu | Staff Writer

September 06, 2019 at 02:30 pm | News

Photo Credit: The New York Times

A mechanic for the American Airlines, who is reported to have been upset over a contract dispute between union workers and the airline, is in court after he was arrested and accused of trying to sabotage a commercial aircraft.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani admitted to investigators that he “accessed the ADM (air data module) system” which is responsible for reporting aircraft speed, pitch and other critical data, reports the CNN.

The criminal complaint filed in federal court indicated that Alani has been charged with “willfully damaging, destroying, disabling, or wrecking an aircraft, and attempting to do so”.

Alani told the investigators 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 from coming off,” shortly before the plane was set to take off from Miami International Airport for the Bahamas.

The aircraft had 150 people on it, reports the Business Insider. Alani was arrested by Federal air marshals working as part of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

According to reports, Alani said that he was upset over stalled labor contract negotiations between the airline and the union, and was trying to get the flight cancelled so he could work overtime.

All summer, the American Airlines and the union of its mechanics, the TWU-IAM Association, have been locked in a contentious dispute. The airline has alleged that employees are “deliberately slowing down work or exaggerating issues that do not affect safety in an effort to influence new contract negotiations,” reports the Business Insider.

A court in August ruled on a lawsuit filed by the company in May, seeking a permanent injunction against the mechanics. The case was ruled in favour of the airline.

Nevertheless, the union urged employees to abide by the ruling while denying the claims of an organized slowdown.

The airline has been negotiating with mechanics since December 2015, but talks stalled and there has not been a meeting between the airline and union since April.

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

The complaint further stated that as the plane went down the runway and pilots increased power to the engines, they noticed an error related to the ADM system, leading to an abortion of the takeoff.

USA Today reports that the aircraft returned to the concourse and no one on board was injured.

Alani is scheduled to make an initial appearance in Miami on Friday, said Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of Florida.

The American Airlines has said it is cooperating with the FBI in its investigations.

“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,” the airline said in a statement.

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