FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — An American Airlines mechanic in Miami will remain in custody for now after being accused of trying to sabotage a jet.
The mechanic, Abdul Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, went before a federal judge Friday, one day after federal agents arrested him.
He’s accused of intentionally creating a mechanical issue that disabled the pilot’s ability to receive air speed and altitude information.
As a result of the mechanic’s actions, investigators say the pilots received an emergency alert after increasing power to the engines just prior to take-off.
The pilots returned to the gate.
It happened July 17 with 150 people on board Flight 2834 from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas. American Airlines said passengers boarded a new aircraft.
Investigators say they identified Alani after video from an airport surveillance camera caught him in the act.
Court records say Alani stated that his intention was “not to cause harm to the aircraft or passengers” and that he was “upset at the stalled contract dispute between the union workers and American Airlines, and that this dispute affected him financially.”
Investigators say he told them that he tampered with the target aircraft in order to cause a delay or have the flight cancelled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work.
John Conrad, a retired chief pilot for one of the major airlines, says he was surprised because the bond between pilots and mechanics is strong.
“I would not say the bond is fractured. It’s certainly going to put everyone on edge just a bit,” Conrad said. “There’ll be some conversations among the pilots and mechanics about this because this really is an aberration, not something I saw in my 29-year career.”
American Airlines said they have an unwavering commitment to the safety and security of customers and team members and that they’re taking this matter very seriously.
“American immediately notified federal law enforcement who took over the investigation with our full cooperation,” the airline stated.
The mechanics union said they condemn, in the strongest possible terms, any conduct by any individual that jeopardizes the safe operation of an aircraft.
“Safety is the number one priority,” they said.
A statement from the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American’s pilots said this incident is disturbing and does not reflect APA’s commitment to safety.
The contract dispute is now being waged in a civil lawsuit filed by American against the mechanics unions.
SMU Business Professor Steve Denson, who specializes in negotiations, says the arrest could help the companies press the reset button.
“It should be a wake-up call to everyone that it’s time to come to the table with some sincerity, bury egos and look for a solution,” Denson said.
Alani will appear in federal court in Miami Wednesday.
A federal prosecutor said if convicted, Alani could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.