An American Airlines mechanic has been charged after he was caught sabotaging an aircraft in July.
Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani was arrested on Thursday night after he told investigators that he tampered with aircraft avionics.
The sabotaged flight was AA2834 from Miami to Nassau on July 17, it was subsequently grounded after pilots received an error message during takeoff.
Flight details show 150 passengers were on-board the Boeing 737-800 when the departure was cancelled.
A criminal complaint, filed in federal court, says the mechanic tampered with the system because he was disgruntled about an impasse over a union contract.
Speaking to investigators, Alani confessed the stalled union contract had been causing financial strain.
His goal was to ground or delay the flight and not cause any harm to passengers, crew and the aircraft, according to talks with investigators.
Situated underneath the cockpit and near the nose landing gear bay, the air data module is responsible for managing airspeed and pitch readings as well as other critical flight data.
Security camera footage presented showed Alani accessing the aircraft, where he eventually made his way into the compartment housing the air data module.
Upon returning for a check after the error message on takeoff, mechanics found a hard foam substance blocking a loose tube to the module.
American Airlines immediately suspected sabotage and reported the incident to the FBI, who subsequently launched an investigation.
Alani should never have been in the area where the air data module was housed, let alone the specific aircraft, hence the large suspicion.
A thorough check of the aircraft also identified a loose pitot tube, which is a highly-critical piece of sensor equipment used for measuring airspeed, angle of attack and more.
Faulty pitot tubes contributed to the 2009 crash of Air France 447 that left 228 people dead and was a crucial factor in the two recent 737 MAX crashes.
If convicted, Alani could face up to 20 years in prison for wilfully damaging, destroying or disabling an aircraft.
American Airlines said they were taking this matter extremely seriously and are working with appropriate authorities to prevent it happening again, across any airline.
According to the New York Times, the TWU-IAM Association, which represents over 30,000 of American Airlines’ employees, announced that mediation talks would resume between the airline and the union.