An American Airlines mechanic has been accused of sabotaging a flight that was due to leave Miami for the Bahamas over an ongoing dispute about contracts.
According to an affidavit from the federal air marshal assigned to an FBI task force, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani tampered with a navigation system on the plane so that he could collect overtime work.
The plane, with 150 people on board, was scheduled to fly from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas on July 17, but was aborted take-off.
As the pilots powered up at Miami International Airport, they saw an error message for a system that tracks speed, nose direction and other critical information.
Mechanics were shocked when, upon examining the plane, they found a piece of foam glued inside a navigation system part called an air data module.
But 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.
The person was later identified by co-workers as Alani.
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He was recognised, in part, by his distinctive limp. Alani admitted his actions during an interview on Thursday.
The affidavit, by officer Jose A Ruiz, claimed: “Alani stated that his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers.
Alani explained that stalled contract negotiations between American Airlines and the mechanics’ unions were putting him under financial strain.
Mr Ruiz wrote that Alani tampered with the plane “to cause a delay or have the flight cancelled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work”.
American and its mechanics have been locked in a bitter dispute over contract talks this year.
But in August, a Federal Court issued a permanent injunction against the union to stop it from interfering in the airline's operations.
Leslie Scott, a spokesperson for American Airlines, said. “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.”