News that an American Airlines mechanic in Miami sabotaged an aircraft before it prepared to take off with passengers was truly shocking. The man admitted that he wanted to delay or cancel the flight out of frustration with union contract talks, and to force more overtime work to fix the problem he had caused.
The claim that he wanted to force more overtime work was odd, because the illegal job action undertaken by some mechanics involved refusing to work overtime. I just chalked that up to anyone that’s going to sabotage a plane isn’t likely to make total sense.
Talks between the airline and mechanics have been ongoing this week. American’s operational performance has been somewhat improved since obtaining a permanent injunction against mechanics in federal court. And both the union and American condemned the actions of the lone mechanic and underscored their commitment to safety.
And of course while the mechanic did manage to force a flight cancellation, it doesn’t appear anyone was ever in serious danger.
The mechanic was denied bond this morning. Federal prosecutors will often over-charge, and use tenuous connections to terrorism, especially when a defendant is named Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani.
According to the government,
- An “Islamic State group propaganda video” was found on his cell phone (which he voluntarily allowed the government to search)
His best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kidAn American Airlines employee “told government officials that Alani had once said his brother was a member of ISIS”
- The man’s roommate “told authorities the trip [to Iraq] was not to visit his brother, but had been because his brother had been kidnapped.”
- He “sent $700 to someone in Iraq” (where he was born and has family, this is normal)
Authorities do not even know if these unverified second hand stories refer to the same brother. It seems equally likely that a mechanic who would sabotage a plane is delusional.
Most importantly the man admits his behavior, and has offered no indication that his one-off obstruction of an air data module on an aircraft was motivated by anything other than unhappiness with a union contract – and being delusional. Certainly someone influenced by ISIS would have chosen another technique if their intention was even more nefarious. Based on what we know now, he seems like a moron not a terrorist.
Rhetoric between the airline and its mechanics has been more muted in the past week and a half since the incident.