An American Airlines mechanic was arrested on Thursday and accused of sabotaging an AA flight with 150 people on board by disabling plane’s navigation system.
According to a criminal complaint affidavit filed in federal court in Miami, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani who is a Nigerian by birth admitted during an interview Thursday that he tampered with a plane before a July 17 flight.
The mechanic was allegedly upset about stalled contract negotiations and wanted to earn some overtime fixing the plane.
Alani was scheduled to make his first court appearance on the charge Friday afternoon. He was charged with willfully damaging or disabling an aircraft. The 60-year-old had worked for American since 1988 but was suspended after his arrest.
The incident occurred before an American jet was scheduled to fly from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas with 150 people on board. As the pilots powered up the plane at Miami International Airport, they saw an error message for a system that tracks speed, nose direction and other critical flight information and aborted the takeoff.
When mechanics examined the plane, they found a piece of foam glued inside a navigation system part called an air data module. Video from an American Airlines surveillance camera captured a person who drove up to the plane, got out and spent seven minutes working around the compartment containing the navigation system, according to the affidavit.
The person was later identified by co-workers as Alani, in part by his distinctive limp, the affidavit said.
Nothing in the criminal complaint against Alani suggested any link to terrorism, and prosecutors did not indicate that any such charges are pending. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami declined to comment.