A veteran American Airlines mechanic was charged this week for purposely sabotaging a plane ahead of takeoff, saying he was upset with the airline over its impasse with the mechanics' union.
The Miami Herald reports Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani was arrested Thursday in connection with the July 17 incident. According to the criminal complaint, Alani admitted he intentionally tampered with the Boeing 737's navigation system in Miami (MIA) “in order to cause a delay or have the flight canceled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work.”
Pilots noticed the issue after powering up the engines before takeoff for a flight Nassau (NAS) in the Bahamas. The plane returned to the gate and was taken out of service – no passengers were harmed due to Alani's actions.
Alani is due in federal court for his first hearing next week.
It marks a new low in the long battle between the airline and its mechanics' union over a new contract. That dispute has exacerbated American's struggle with operating flights on time, leading to long delays over the summer months.
The airline took its mechanics to court, accusing them of intentionally disrupting flights to gain leverage in contract negotiations. A federal court slapped the union with an injunction to prevent further disruptions.
After his arrest, Alani told federal air marshals that the contract impasse “had affected him financially.” He was captured on video walking up to the plane and spending about seven minutes working inside the compartment that houses the navigational system.
After his arrest, Alani said he did not intend “to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers.”
This is dangerous, and yet another ugly development in the dispute between American and its mechanics. Alani is lucky pilots caught the error and didn't take off with passengers onboard a sabotaged plane. Still, he could face considerable jail time. And it could turn the tide of public opinion against mechanics.