Rogue American Airlines Mechanic Arrested For Tampering With A Plane

A mechanic for American Airlines was arrested yesterday and is being charged with damaging an aircraft. The charge relates to a Boeing 737, which Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani is thought to have sabotaged. The situation is thought to have arisen from stalled contract negotiations between AA and its ground workers union.

AA 737
An AA mechanic is accused of sabotaging a Boeing 737. Photo: Fabrizio Gandolfo via Wikipedia

What happened?

The American Airlines flight, AA2934, was scheduled to operate from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas on July 17th this year. The Boeing 737-800 was loaded up with 150 passengers and ready to depart. However, as it proceeded down the runway, the pilots received an error warning from the ADM system and aborted the take off.

The ADM (air data module) system connects to pitot tubes in the nose of the aircraft to read air pressure from the sensor. It gives pilots useful information about the flight including air speed, pitch and other data.

Pitot tubes
Pitot tubes clearly visible on a 737NG. Photo: Simple Flying/Dylan Ashe via Wikimedia

The aircraft returned to the apron safely and no passengers or crew were injured in the incident.

CNN reports that American Airlines inspected the aircraft, and discovered what the airline calls “a loosely connected pitot tube”. They said that “the ADM appeared to have been deliberately obstructed with what appeared to be a dark Styrofoam-type material.”

Alani is accused of deliberately gluing this substance inside the aircraft, in a bid to disrupt communications with the ADM. He was identified following inspection of the CCTV cameras at the airport.

Mechanic arrested

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, a mechanic based at AA’s Miami hub was arrested yesterday. Alani is being charged with “willfully damaging, destroying or disabling an aircraft” and is expected to appear in court in Miami today. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

American Airlines 737
The mechanic could be sentenced for up to 20 years. Photo: American Airlines

Simple Flying reached out to American Airlines in regard to this situation, who told us,

“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.”

Why did he do it?

The mechanic claimed that his reasoning was down to the ongoing dispute between American Airlines and its mechanics’ union. The labor dispute which has been bubbling away all year has already impacted the airline’s operations, with planes grounded for extended periods, taken out of service unnecessarily (according to AA) and an expensive court case being pursued.

The situation has led to numerous cancellations and delays to services, but this is the first time the safety of a flight has been compromised. According to USA Today, Alani told law enforcement officials that he was  “upset at the stalled contract dispute between the union workers and American Airlines,” and that this dispute had “affected him financially.”

aa mechanics
AA’s dispute with the mechanics union is still unresolved. Photo: American Airlines

Business Insider further reports that he claims he never wanted to hurt anyone, and only wanted “to cause a delay or have the flight canceled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work.”

American Airlines’ battle with the TWU-IAM Association, which represents around 30,000 ground workers at AA, continues. The union has indicated it will resume negotiations with AA later this month.