It’s been a long hot summer of operational disruption at American Airlines, although things have gotten somewhat better since the airline obtained a permanent injunction against a work action by mechanics frustrated over the lack of agreement on a contract.
American Airlines still doesn’t have a mechanics and fleet service workers contract that covers both legacy US Airways and American Airlines employees six years into the merger. The airline wants concessions on outsourcing and health benefits (for legacy US Airways workers) in exchange for pay raises and job protections.
In May the President of the Transportation Workers Union, which represents legacy American Airlines mechanics, promised
“the bloodiest ugliest battle that the United States labor movement ever saw that’s what’s gonna happen.”
We haven’t reached the point of a strike, and the airline and its mechanics are headed back to the bargaining table with the National Mediation Board next week. However tensions have certainly been high. For instance a video of an American Airlines supervisor yelling at a mechanic went viral in June (though note there’s NSFW language):
Now we’ve learned that at least one mechanic took things way too far. Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani was arrested yesterday for sabotaging American Airlines flight 2834 on July 17. He’s alleged to have disabled a navigation system on the aircraft.
The flight was preparing to depart Miami for Nassau with 150 passengers on board. Prosecutors claim the mechanic, unhappy with negotiations, tampered with the plane’s air data module. Pilots received an alert and the aircraft was taken out of service.
It was at that point that another American Airlines mechanic “found a loosely connected tube in front of the nose gear underneath the cockpit that had been deliberately obstructed with some sort of hard foam material.”
According to the complaint filed Thursday, Alani glued the foam inside the tube leading from outside the plane to its air data module, a system that reports aircraft speed, pitch and other critical flight data. As a result, if the plane had taken off that day from MIA, the pilots would have had to operate the aircraft manually because the ADM system would not have received any computer data.
After his arrest Thursday, the affidavit says that Alani told federal air marshals assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that “his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers.”
He said that his motive in tampering with the navigational system was because he was “upset” over stalled contract negotiations between the mechanics’ union and American Airlines that has raged for months — that “the dispute had affected him financially.”
The man says he tampered with the aircraft “in order to cause a delay or have the flight canceled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work.” My American Airlines mechanic readers can stop telling me there weren’t any mechanics trying to sabotage the operation this summer, or that problems ended with June’s temporary restraining order.