An American Airlines mechanic has just been sentenced to 37 months in prison for attempting to sabotage a plane.
What this American Airlines mechanic did
In September 2019, an American Airlines mechanic in Miami was charged with “willfully damaging, destroying or disabling an aircraft.”
The 60 year old mechanic, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, had been at American Airlines for over 30 years. He attempted to disable the navigation system of a plane that was supposed to carry 150 people on a flight from Miami to Nassau on July 17, 2019.
Fortunately when the pilots powered up the plane’s engines they received an error message, so they ended up returning to the gate so that the plane could be taken out of service. That’s the point at which they determined the plane had been tampered with, and security footage showed it was Alani who was behind it.
How the mechanic justified his actions
The American Airlines mechanic had told investigators that his intention wasn’t to cause harm to the plane, but rather he was upset about stalled contract negotiations between the mechanics union and management, saying that the dispute had affected him financially.
He also claimed that he only did what he did in order to cause a delay or have the flight canceled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work. In other words, he broke something so that he’d be able to fix it during overtime.
In fairness, American Airlines had huge issues with their mechanics last summer, causing a countless number of cancelations and delays. Mechanics intentionally taking planes out of service was nothing new at the time, though literally sabotaging a plane was (hopefully) not something that was otherwise happening.
Mechanic receives 37 month prison sentence
Yesterday Alani was sentenced to 37 months in prison for his actions. When he was first charged, he was facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted, so I guess the sentencing wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But still, over three years in jail is quite a while…
Fortunately a few weeks ago American’s management and mechanics reached a new agreement, so there should be fewer issues going forward.
It’s anyone’s guess what Alani’s true intentions were. If he was actually trying to put the plane in danger then this was a dumb way to go about it, since this is something the onboard computer was almost certainly going to detect before takeoff (as it did).
If this was merely part of mechanics’ plans to take planes out of service to prove a point to management, then this really crossed the line. There’s a difference between taking a plane out of service to prove a point, and tampering with a plane and sending it on its way.