A long-time American Airlines mechanic has pleaded guilty to tampering with an aircraft, but strongly denied there was any link to terrorism.
In a U.S. federal court in Miami, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani pleaded guilty to attempted destruction of an aircraft.
Prosecutors used surveillance footage to piece together exactly what happened.
“Prior to the aircraft’s scheduled take-off from MIA, Alani had inserted a foam substance into the ADM [air data module] system and used super glue to hold the substance in place.”
This prompted an error light to illuminate as the plane was preparing to takeoff, leading to an aborted takeoff. 150 people were onboard.
Prosecutors had built a circumstantial case of terrorism against Alani, but he and his defense attorney strongly refuted this theory. Instead, Alani confessed only to attempting to delay or cancel the flight in hopes of earning overtime pay. At no time, said Alani, were passengers deliberately put in danger.
His guilty plea comes only three months after he pleaded not guilty to willfully attempting to damage, destroy, disable and wreck a civil aircraft.
But even in declaring his guilt, his lawyer tried to blame-shift. Speaking in his defense, attorney Jonathan Meltz tried to cast blame on American Airlines, arguing that its low wages prompted Alani to take drastic actions.
“He worked double shifts, and triple shifts to provide for his family. After being a mechanic for 20 years, this is what he’s dealing with.”
Alani, who appeared in shackles in the Florida courtroom, will be sentenced in March.
Whatever Alani’s motives, his actions seemed to be the straw that broke the union’s back. With unions under court order not to deliberately delay or cancel flights and shamed by Alani, we are seeing far fewer operational difficulties at AA. In that sense, maybe Alani’s selfish motives actually ended up doing more help than harm. Nevertheless, Alani will not be out of jail anytime soon.
image: Daniel Pontet
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