American Airlines mechanic Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani appeared in a Miami court around 1:30 p.m. on Friday after previously admitting to investigators on Thursday that he was responsible for sabotaging American Airlines Flight 2834’s air data module (ADM) system.
Court documents say Alani has been charged with “willfully damaging, destroying or disabling an aircraft,” which can result in a fine and a maximum of 20 years behind bars, according to 18 US Code § 33.
The aircraft, carrying 150 travelers, was scheduled to fly to Nassau, Bahamas, from Miami International Airport on July 17, but had to abruptly abort takeoff after the pilot and flight crew detected an error with the plane’s ADM.
"Further inspection revealed the ADM appeared to have been deliberately obstructed with what appeared to be a dark Styrofoam-type material," senior Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Air Marshal Jose Ruiz explained in the affidavit.
The TSA official went on to allege that surveillance footage captured a man driving a white truck up to the side of the aircraft where the ADM is located. The individual, whom Ruiz later identified as Alani, spent approximately seven minutes fiddling with equipment in the aircraft’s compartment.
"Alani stated that his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers," Ruiz noted in the court affidavit.
Apparently, Alani decided to sabotage the 150-passenger aircraft following a contract bargaining impasse between American Airlines and union workers. The mechanic claims he implanted the Styrofoam to ultimately have the flight canceled and receive overtime pay for repairing the aircraft.
The 150 travelers were placed on another aircraft and eventually departed for the Bahamas on the same day.
"At American, we have an unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our customers and team members, and we are taking this matter very seriously," American Airlines told WPLG Local 10 on Friday. "At the time of the incident, the aircraft was taken out of service, maintenance was performed, and, after an inspection to ensure it was safe, the aircraft was returned to service. American immediately notified federal law enforcement, who took over the investigation with our full cooperation."