Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

american airlines

Getty FILE PHOTO: American Airlines plane parked at Miami International Airport.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani has been identified as the American Airlines mechanic who admitted to tampering with a plane’s navigation system before it was scheduled to take off from Miami International Airport in Florida.

The incident happened on July 17, 2019. The plane, with 150 people on board, was supposed to fly to Nassau, Bahamas. But the pilots received an error alert after powering up the engines. The flight was aborted and no one was hurt.

Alani told investigators that he had wanted to cause a delay in an attempt to earn overtime pay. He insisted that he had not wanted to hurt anyone. But prosecutors have questioned that motive after finding evidence that Alani had potential ties to terrorism.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Alani Confessed That He Was Upset Over a Contract Dispute Between the Union & American Airlines; He Told Investigators He’d Been Motivated By the Potential For Overtime Pay

american airlines mechanic sabotage

An excerpt from the criminal complaint.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani admitted in an interview with law enforcement that he had been responsible for sabotaging the American Airlines aircraft. According to the criminal complaint filed in the federal Southern District of Florida, Alani made the confession on September 5, 2019. You can read the full complaint here.

Alani insisted that he never wanted to hurt anyone. He explained to investigators that his intention had been to prevent the aircraft from taking off. He had hoped that the flight cancellation would result in additional work, and therefore overtime pay.

Alani said that he was “upset at the stalled contract dispute between the union workers and American Airlines.” He stated that the negotiations had “affected him financially.”

Alani is facing a charge of “willfully damaging, destroying, disabling, or wrecking an aircraft,” according to the complaint. He could face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted.


2. Prosecutors: Alani Told a Co-Worker That His Brother Is a Member of ISIS


Prosecutors: Mechanic Accused Of Sabotaging American Airlines Plane Has Ties To ISISThe accused, 60-year-old Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Iraq.2019-09-18T21:39:27.000Z

Alani told investigators that he tampered with the aircraft because he was hoping to get overtime work. But prosecutors are questioning his motives and say he has possible ties to terrorists.

Prosecutors said in court that Alani had lied about taking a trip to Iraq in March of 2019 to visit his brother. (Alani is an Iraqi native and became a U.S. citizen in the 1990s, according to the Associated Press). Investigators said that Alani had allegedly told a co-worker that his brother was a member of ISIS.

The Miami Herald reported that prosecutors found an ISIS video on Alani’s phone depicting a person being shot in the head. Investigators accused Alani of forwarding the video along with a message promoting violence against non-Muslims.

At this time, Alani is not facing any terror-related charges. His public defender, attorney Christian Dunham, argued in court that prosecutors were exaggerating the situation and insisted, “We don’t believe he intentionally endangered the safety of people” on the flight.


3. Alani Has Been an American Airlines Mechanic Since 1988; The Union Quickly Condemned His Actions

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani has been working as a mechanic for American Airlines since 1988, according to the Miami Herald. The union that represents the airline’s employees is the TWU-IAM Association.

The Director of the union, Sito Pantoja, and Vice Director Alex Garcia released a statement on Friday, September 6. They did not directly mention Alani by name. The statement reads:

“The TWU/IAM Association condemns, in the strongest possible terms, any conduct by any individual that jeopardizes the safe operation of an aircraft. Safety is the number one priority for our IAM and TWU members involved in the maintenance and operation of aircraft. These members are the most highly trained safety professionals in the airline industry. As a result, the US air transportation system is the safest in the world. Any conduct that jeopardizes that safety is not tolerated or condoned by the leadership or members of our organizations.”

The union had announced just one day before Alani’s arrest that it was resuming negotiations with American Airlines.

Alani also previously worked for Alaska Airlines. Business Insider reported that Alani worked for both American and Alaska from 1998 until 2008. He was fired from Alaska Airlines following a series of maintenance mistakes. Alani was accused of clocking into both jobs at the same time.

American Airlines released a statement the day after Alani was arrested. The airline also did not mention Alani by name. It reads:

“On July 17, flight 2834 from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas, returned to the gate due to a maintenance issue. Passengers boarded a new aircraft which then re-departed for Nassau. 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. 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.”


4. The Equipment Alani Tampered With Provides Critical Flight Data to the Pilots


American Airlines mechanic accused of sabotaging flight appears in courtAn American Airlines mechanic, disgruntled about stalled union contract negotiations, disabled a navigation system on a flight scheduled to take off from Miami International Airport, according to a federal criminal complaint.2019-09-06T22:21:30.000Z

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani messed with the navigation equipment that pilots rely on during flights. The machinery monitors the plane’s “speed, pitch, and other critical flight data,” according to the criminal complaint.

The pilots were preparing to take off from Miami International Airport on July 17, 2019, after there were no reported issues with the aircraft. The pilots realized something was wrong as they prepared to head to the departure runway.

The complaint explains that the flight crew received an error alert “related to the air data module (ADM) system” after powering up the engines. If they had taken off, the pilots would have had to fly the plane manually, without any data available. The flight was aborted.

Alani confessed to investigators that he had “inserted a piece of foam into the ADM’s inlet where the line connects and that he applied super glue to the foam so as to prevent the foam from coming off.”


5. Alani Walks With a Limp & Surveillance Footage Recorded Him Accessing the Aircraft

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani

Southern District of Florida

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani was identified as the suspect thanks to surveillance cameras at the airport and statements from other mechanics who interacted with him at the Miami International Airport that day.

The complaint filed in federal court explains that Alani was seen on video driving a white pickup truck to the Target Aircraft, which was parked at Concourse D, Gate 49 on July 17, 2019. Alani accessed the navigation system for about seven minutes, from 9:28 until 9:35 a.m.

This action was suspicious because there were no pending work orders for that particular aircraft at the time. In addition, Alani’s work was typically limited to “disabled aircraft parked in the hangar area needing repairs.” It was unusual for him to be accessing an aircraft on the concourse.

One of the clues that led American Airlines and federal investigators to Alani was his particular walk. The person on the video walked with a noticeable limp.

Alani had worked a double shift on that day. The complaint explains that Alani’s normal shift was 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. But on July 17, Alani began a second shift, which ran from 6 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., according to American Airlines. He had switched shifts with a co-worker.

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