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American Airlines mechanic sabotages plane pre-flight hoping to earn some overtime


Union negotiations have hurt his income

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

An American Airlines mechanic tampered with the navigation system of a plan before a flight, hoping the disruption would create an opportunity for him to work overtime, according to the Associated Press.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, a 60-year-old man who has worked for American Airlines for more than 30 years, was suspended from his job and arrested and charged with willfully damaging or disabling an aircraft.

Before takeoff, the pilots noticed an error message from the system that tracks plane speed, nose direction, and other information, so they aborted the takeoff. Upon inspection of the plane, they noticed someone had glued a piece of foam inside an air data module.

Surveillance video showed someone driving up to the plane before the flight and working on it for several minutes. Other employees identified Alani as the man in the video by his distinctive limp.

Alani told authorities he did not intend to harm anyone with his tampering, and he is not currently being charged with terrorism. He told the FBI he wanted "to cause a delay or have the flight cancelled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work."

Unfruitful negotiations between American Airlines and the unions that represent mechanics have caused a financial burden, Alani told authorities. One of those unions condemned Alani's actions.

"The Transport Workers Union is shocked by the reported allegations of airplane sabotage by an employee," TWU President John Samuelsen said in a statement. "If these allegations of sabotage are true, they are outrageous and indefensible, and we fully condemn such actions."

American Airlines issued a statement about the situation:

"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."
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