American Airlines saboteur sentenced to three years in prison

An American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) mechanic, who had worked for the company for 30 years, was sentenced to three years in prison after an attempt to sabotage the navigation system of an aircraft about to take off.

The 60-year-old engineer tampered with the air data module (ADM) system of the American Airlines’ (A1G) (AAL) Boeing 737-800, registered N861NN0, which was scheduled to operate Flight 2834 from Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida, to Nassau in the Bahamas, with 150 passengers on board on July 17, 2019. The ADM system reports critical data such as airspeed, altitude and pitch of an aircraft.

In December 2019, he pleaded guilty to the federal charge of attempted destruction of an aircraft. After the initial suspicion of terrorism was dismissed, it appears that the act was financially motivated. According to his lawyer, the mechanic wanted to keep the plane on the ground for additional repair, in order to earn more money to pay, among other things, for his children’s study costs. 

A court in Miami, Florida, sentenced him to 37 months in prison on March 4, 2020. 

The sabotage was found just before takeoff when pilots started the engines before takeoff and received incorrect readings from the ADM. The flight was aborted and the airline scrambled used a replacement plane to take the passengers to their destination. 

“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,” the airline explained in a statement to AeroTime back in September 2019. Upon inspection, foam substance was discovered glued to the navigation system. “American immediately notified federal law enforcement who took over the investigation with our full cooperation.” Authorities say that if the flight had taken off as planned, the sabotage could have caused a crash.

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