American Airlines mechanic pleads guilty in airplane tampering incident

Dec 18 (Reuters) - A former American Airlines mechanic pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a charge of attempted destruction of an aircraft that was scheduled to depart from Miami with 150 people on board.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, 60, of Tracy, California, admitted that on July 17 he tampered with the air data module (ADM) system of an aircraft at Miami International Airport that was scheduled to depart for Nassau, Bahamas, the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami said.

Alani faces up to 20 years in prison. A lawyer for Alani, who remains behind bars, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He is scheduled to be sentenced in March by U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke.

On the day of the flight, while number one for taking the departure runway, the flight crew increased power to the engines in preparation for take-off, which resulted in an error reading by the aircraft’s computer and the take-off was aborted, the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami said.

Prior to the aircraft’s scheduled take-off, Alani had inserted a foam substance into the ADM system and used super glue to hold the substance in place, court papers said.

American Airlines said in a statement that after it “learned about the allegations, we inspected aircraft that Mr. Alani had worked on to ensure that they were safe. His conduct is not representative of the world-class work performed every day by our 15,000 Technical Operations safety professionals.”

When law enforcement officials interviewed Alani after his arrest, he claimed he was upset over stalled labor talks and that he had tampered with the aircraft hoping that a delay or cancellation would lead to overtime work, court papers said. (Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Leslie Adler)