American Airline mechanic sabotage charge raises airplane security concerns

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani entered a not guilty plea in federal court on Friday to charges that he attempted to sabotage a July flight out of Miami International Airport. The case raises questions about airplane security and the background of those working on flights.

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Alani’s not guilty plea in Miami follows a charge that the 60-year-old mechanic had sabotaged the navigation system of a flight from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas. Sympathies with ISIS as well as claims that his brother was part of the terrorist organization raised enough concerns that he was denied bond earlier this week.

Alani spent more than three decades with the airline during which time he had no issues.

A spokesman for American Airlines told FOX Business that Alani would have been subject to recurrent background checks, in addition to the check he would have gone through when hired in 1988.

Some experts don’t think enough is being done to adequately screen those working in the airline industry.

“The issue … isn’t new, nor is it rocket science. There are numerous loopholes that penetrate airport security that our government continuously puts a blind eye towards,” Doug Moss, an aviation safety expert, told FOX Business. “There are many workgroups that have direct access to airplanes who are not adequately screened. Mechanics, caterers, cleaners, fuelers and a host of other workgroups have paltry screening protocols. The [American Airlines] incident in Miami was bound to happen.”

In this particular case, there are plenty of questions and very few answers yet, says Keith Mackey, a former airline captain who is now an aviation safety expert.

What isn’t being discussed, according to Mackey, is what Alani was doing in the first place and why it didn’t arouse suspicion. Noting that a mechanic would be expected to be in the part of the plane where the navigation system is housed, Mackey said that the timing is suspicious and should have triggered concerns long before Alani got access to the plane.

“The thing that is a mystery is that there was no write-ups when the airplane came in so there was nothing to be corrected in that area,” Mackey said.

“So he took it upon himself to select that airplane … He could have done something more serious. We didn’t discover that he had the terrorist connection till well after the fact so that’s a mystery also.”

On Friday, Alani’s attorney, Jonathan Meltz, spoke to the media and noted that there is a single charge currently against his client. He said that he welcomed the continued investigation as it would exonerate his client.

Meltz also reiterated to the press that there have been charges levied against his client involving terrorism.

If convicted on the federal charge that currently stands against him, Alani could serve a maximum sentence of 20 years.