MIAMI, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) – An American Airlines mechanic has been accused of accused of sabotaging a plane that was set to take 150 people to the Bahamas this summer.
Abdul-Majeed Alani was in federal court Friday as prosecutors say the mechanic admitted to tampering with a navigation system on the plane so that he could collect overtime work.
The plane was scheduled to fly from Miami to the Bahamas in July, but pilots aborted takeoff after seeing several error messages in the cockpit.
Inspectors later found a piece of foam glued inside the navigation system.
Alani was allegedly upset over stalled labor contract negotiations. He was fired from another airline several years ago and briefly had his mechanic’s license suspended, according to court documents.
Court records from a lawsuit in California indicate that for some years, Alani worked both for American and Alaska Airlines until Alaska fired him in 2008 after several errors including failing to verify that repairs were working and installing the wrong battery on a plane. The Federal Aviation Administration suspended his mechanic’s certificate for 30 days, according to court documents.
Alani, who was born in Iraq and became a U.S. citizen in 1992, sued Alaska Airlines for discrimination based on national origin. A judge dismissed the lawsuit for lack of evidence.
Nothing in the criminal complaint against Alani suggests any link to terrorism, and prosecutors did not indicate that any such charges are pending.
When interviewed Thursday by investigators, “Alani stated that his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers,” according to the affidavit by Jose A. Ruiz, a federal air marshal who serves on an FBI terrorism task force.
On Friday, union officials distanced themselves from Alani.
“The Transport Workers Union is shocked by the reported allegations of airplane sabotage by an employee,” TWU President John Samuelsen said in a statement. “If these allegations of sabotage are true, they are outrageous and indefensible, and we fully condemn such actions.”
In a statement, American Airlines said it cooperated fully with the investigation “and we are taking this matter very seriously.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)