It was revealed this week that an American Airlines mechanic was charged with sabotaging a flight from Miami, then he was arrested. This kind of action hurts their cause.
American Airlines Mechanic Causes Damage
Allegedly, on July 17th, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, a 60-year old mechanic for American Airlines in their Miami base, inserted a foam obstruction into a key sensor in the nosecone of the aircraft. He was arrested for the offense last week and appeared in court.
The FBI and federal air marshals conducted the investiagtion which utilized video surveillance cameras showing Alani entering the nosecone. He was identified by co-workers; he walks with a limp which assisted in identifying him.
Unbelievably Unconscionable Act
Alani was reportedly motivated to take matters into his own hands, frustrated by stalled mechanics union contract negotiations. While the pilots did their job and aborted take-off as the air data sensor alerted them during the engine spool up on the runway, had they missed the alarm, things could have been worse.
“…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.” – Jay Weaver, Miami Herald
Of course, pilots can operate the airplane manually. And no, he didn’t sever a brake line or something that directly would have harmed passengers, but this sort of damage adds unnecessary risk. Both American mechanics unions have condemned the actions in a joint statement.
This Hurts Their Otherwise Just Cause
With contract mediation set to reconvene on September 16th, this only strengthens management’s position that Mechanics actions caused serious harm to the carrier and, in this instance, could have cost lives.
The mechanic claimed he could not afford an attorney to represent him but disclosed making $84-96,000/year. While the employee was making nearly six figures, he was upset about limited overtime. It certainly doesn’t garner sympathy for the plight of the working class.
Union member actions have been something most of the public could get behind simply because American Airlines management had been so reprehensible in their approach. American sued their own employees (shortly after previously denying it), they appeared to have a judge in their pocket rubber-stamping court orders their legal team had written, and had promised a best-in-class contract but has yet to deliver one. You don’t have to be pro-union to want to root for mechanics who aren’t going to take it anymore.
Compared with other instances of industrial action, this is a fairly subdued approach. If anything, planes were safer rather than more dangerous because they were getting maintenance work more often as opposed to flying equipment that didn’t need to be urgently repaired.
Mechanics deserve a contract and if that means slowing down operations until American Airlines management wakes up, so be it. But Alani went too far, way too far, and if convicted should serve the maximum penalty offered. If true, his act was intentional, planned in advance, and counter to everything mechanics stand for. Alani may have thought he was helping the cause at the time but his actions have forced the unions to tuck their tails, may have turned the public against the cause, and ultimately worsened their bargaining position in the eyes of the mediators.
What do you think? Was this simply a step too far? Will it have a material effect on future judgements or court orders?