American Airlines mechanic accused of attempted sabotage of flight with 150 on board

An American Airlines mechanic is accused of trying to sabotage a commercial airliner before it was set to take off from Miami International Airport. CNN's René Marsh has the details.

Posted: Sep 6, 2019 1:50 PM
Updated: Sep 6, 2019 1:50 PM

A mechanic for American Airlines was arrested Thursday and accused of trying to sabotage a commercial airliner shortly before it was set to take off from Miami International Airport for the Bahamas with 150 people on board.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani has been charged with "willfully damaging, destroying, disabling, or wrecking an aircraft, and attempting to do so," according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

Alani allegedly tried to damage or disable the aircraft's air data module (ADM) system, which reports aircraft speed, pitch and other critical data, on July 17.

On Thursday, investigators interviewed Alani and he "admitted that he accessed the ADM" and 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," the complaint says.

"Alani stated that his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers," investigators say in the complaint.

The court documents say Alani told investigators that he was upset over a contract dispute between union workers and the airlines, and the dispute had cost him money.

Alani allegedly explained that he tampered with the aircraft so he could get overtime working on the plane.

As the plane went down the runway and pilots increased power to the engines, there was an error related to the ADM system and the takeoff was aborted.

The aircraft returned to the concourse and no one on board was injured, the complaint says.

American Airlines mechanics immediately inspected the aircraft and "discovered a loosely connected pitot tube, which connects directly to the ADM" and determined "the ADM appeared to have been deliberately obstructed with what appeared to be a dark Styrofoam-type material," according to the complaint.

Authorities used surveillance video to identify Alani, the document says.

American Airlines, in a statement to CNN, said, "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 a 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."

CNN reached out to Alani without success Thursday and is attempting to determine whether he has an attorney.

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

Correction: Earlier versions of this story misspelled the last name of Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos.

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