Mechanic charged with sabotaging American Airlines plane carrying 150 out of Miami

(File Photo by © Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

An American Airlines mechanic upset over stalled union contract negotiations was arrested Thursday, charged with doing the unthinkable — sabotaging an aircraft that was set to carry 150 passengers.

This coming after the union president promised “the bloodiest, ugliest battle” ever seen in the U.S. labor movement.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, a veteran AA employee, allegedly disabled a navigation system on a flight scheduled to take off from Miami International Airport earlier this summer, the Miami Herald reported.

The July 17 flight was heading to Nassau, Bahamas, and was aborted when an error alert activated as the pilots powered up the plane’s engines on the runway.

The aircraft was taken out of service for maintenance at America Airlines’ hangar at Miami International Airport and tampering with the air data module was discovered during an inspection, the newspaper reported.

The inspection revealed a loosely connected tube in front of the nose gear under the cockpit had been deliberately obstructed with hard foam material.

If the tampering had not been discovered, the pilots reportedly would have had to fly the aircraft manually because the ADM system would not have received any computer data.

Alani told federal air marshals “his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers,” according to his arrest affidavit.

The mechanic said his motivation was “to cause a delay or have the flight canceled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work” because stalled contract negotiations with American Airlines “had affected him financially.”

Surveillance video captured Alani, who walks with a limp, approaching the plane on the tarmac and accessing the compartment where the navigational system was. He allegedly spent about seven minutes sabotaging the aircraft.

The airline filed a lawsuit against TWU-IAM in late May, claiming that mechanics were intentionally slowing down flights and causing operational problems, resulting in a federal judge in Texas issuing a permanent injunction requiring that the unions to do everything they can to tell mechanics that a slowdown is illegal, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Ironically, American Airlines said that the unions were telling members to refuse overtime, turn down off-work assignments and otherwise slow down maintenance to penalize the carrier, according to the paper.

As the Herald reported, the standoff between the Transport Workers Union and the International Association of Machinists and American Airlines was “strained.”

TWU President John Samuelson confronted American Airlines President Robert Isom earlier this year at a town hall at LaGuardia Airport, according to CBS DFW.

“I stand here to tell you that you’re not going to get what you want,” Samuelson said. “If this erupts into the bloodiest, ugliest battle that the United States labor movement ever saw, that’s what’s going to happen. You’re already profitable enough.”

“If we ever get to a point where there’s self help, we are going to engage in absolutely vicious strike action against American Airlines to the likes of which you’ve never seen, not organized by airline people, but organized by a guy that came out of the New York City subway system that’s well inclined to strike power and who understands that the only way to challenge power is to aggressively take it to them,” the union chief added. “We’re going to shut this place down.”

A union flier circulated after the event promising the “bloodiest, ugliest battle” in labor history, as seen in court filings.

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Tom Tillison

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