American Airlines Mechanic Jailed Following Aircraft Sabotage

An American Airlines mechanic who deliberately sabotaged a Boeing 737 last July has been sentenced to 37 months in prison. The 60-year-old tampered with the aircraft in an attempt to gain more overtime.

American Airlines Boeing 737
A former American Airlines mechanic has been jailed for 37 months after attempting to sabotage a flight. Photo: Getty Images

Yesterday, ex-American Airlines aircraft mechanic Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani was sentenced to 37 months in prison for deliberately tampering with an American Airlines Boeing 737 on 17 July last year. The 60-year-old had been an American Airlines employee for more than 30 years, securing his first job with the airline back in 1988.

Luckily for the 150 people aboard the flight from Miami International Airport to Nassau in the Bahamas, the pilot noticed an error message in the cockpit just before takeoff.

How was the aircraft sabotaged?

According to reports by The Dallas Morning News, Alani tampered with the American Airlines Boeing 737 by gluing a piece of Styrofoam to the inside of the aircraft’s nose cone. As a result of this simple piece of Styrofoam, the sensors inside the aircraft’s nose ceased to function as normal.

Without accurate readings from instruments designed to monitor airspeed, altitude and pitch, prosecutors say Alani’s actions could easily have resulted in a loss of life from a severe incident.

During Alani’s trial, the pilot of the flight, Richard Shafer, is quoted as saying:

“I firmly believe that the deliberate tampering … of my aircraft would have exposed my passengers and crew to a higher level of danger had the aircraft gone airborne.”

Shafer noticed an error message relating to the instruments in the aircraft’s nose cone, returning the aircraft to the terminal just before take-off.

American Airlines Boeing 737
The culprit was caught on security camera footage. Photo: BriYYZ via Wikimedia Commons

How was Alani caught?

Although the incident took place on 17 July, Alani wasn’t arrested until September, following a thorough investigation by the airline and law enforcement. According to reports by The Dallas Morning News, footage of a worker carrying out the sabotage was caught on security cameras.

Air marshals were able to identify Alani as the culprit with the help of his colleagues. His distinctive limp was easily identifiable on the security camera footage.

After being taken in for questioning on the incident, Alani openly admitted to gluing the Styrofoam piece inside the aircraft’s nose in an attempt to secure additional overtime that night. He reportedly said that he needed more money to support his children’s college education and that he was dissatisfied with the ongoing negotiations between the air mechanic union and American Airlines. These negotiations were resolved in January, with an additional $4.2 billion for the mechanics.

American Airlines Boeing 737
If the aircraft had taken off, prosecutors say it could have ended in a catastrophic accident. Photo: Colin Brown Photography via Flickr

In response to the accusations against him, Alani said that “his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers.” Additionally, Alani’s lawyer, Jonathan Meltz, said that his client’s intentions were “solely financial” and that he didn’t intend to cause any harm through his deliberate sabotage.

Discussing the incident with Simple Flying, American Airlines says that Mr Alani’s conduct is “not representative of the world-class work performed every day by our 15,000 Technical Operations safety professionals.”