An American Airlines mechanic based at Miami International Airport (MIA) has been sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of deliberately sabotaging a plane with 150 passengers and crew onboard. Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani initially told investigators he had deliberately tampered with the plane because he was unhappy with stalled contract negotiations between American Airlines and the Transport Workers Union (TWU).
But during the court case, prosecutors raised the possibility of a terrorism motive, suggesting that Alani who is a naturalised U.S. citizen of Iraqi descent, had made statements “wishing Allah would use divine powers to harm non-Muslims.”
Prosecutors also said they found Islamic State videos on Alani’s cellphone, while also claiming his brother, who still lives in Iraq, may have links to the terrorist organisation.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, however, said she had found no evidence to support the prosecution’s claims and noted that the original indictment which referred to ‘wilfully damaging, destroying or disabling an aircraft’ never mentioned anything about terrorism.
Alani had admitted to deliberately placing a piece of styrofoam into the inlet of an aircraft data module while the plane sat in the hangar for a routine maintenance issue on July 17. last year. Alani then super glued the foam so it wouldn’t come off – as a result, inaccurate data such as windspeed would be sent to the aircraft computers and pilots.
The plane was taxiing to take off from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas with 150 passengers and crew onboard when the pilots received an error message and returned to the gate. The Feds were called in when an internal investigation by AA corporate security found security video footage of Alani tampering with the plane for seven minutes while it was in the hangar.
In his original interview, Alani claimed he had sabotaged the plane because “he was upset at the stalled contract dispute between the union workers and American Airlines and that this dispute had affected him financially”. However, he claimed that he never intended any harm to either the plane of its passengers and crew.
Judge Cooke sentenced Alani, to 37 months imprisonment for the federal charge of attempted destruction of an aircraft.
American Airlines declined to comment and referred to the U.S. Attorneys Office.
Tip of the hat to One Mile at a Time.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.