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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the air, it turns out that September 11 really can happen again. Only instead of a foreigner bulldozing his way into piloting the plane into buildings, today’s saboteurs are exploiting a “more covert” approach.

Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani was arrested Thursday, accused of trying to sabotage a commercial airliner in Miami bound for the Bahamas with 150 people on board. He has been charged with “willfully damaging, destroying, disabling, or wrecking an aircraft, or attempting to do so.”

Alani tried to damage or neutralize the air data module, called an “ADM system,” that tells the pilot the speed, pitch and a number of other needed items of data. Just rigging it so the pilot couldn’t see the true airspeed could cause a fatal mistake.

According to court documents, he was upset over a dispute between the union and the airlines which had cost him money. He didn’t intend to cause harm, he just wanted more overtime. Or, so he says. That could be the “just in case” cover story for an intended act of terrorism.

Thankfully, the pilot was able to detect the tampering and aborted take off. As he ran down the runway the instruments let him know there was an error reading in the ADM. Advances in technology help the pilot and those who work with and on the plane to know when something isn’t right, to avoid mid-air disasters.

American Airlines mechanics promptly inspected the airplane and “discovered a loosely connected ‘pitot tube,’ which connects directly to the ADM. The ADM appeared to have been deliberately obstructed with what appeared to be a dark Styrofoam-type material.” Surveillance video was used to identify the culprit.

When questioned, Alani admitted everything. He said he “inserted a piece of foam into the ADM’s inlet where the line connects and that he applied super glue to the foam so as to prevent the foam from coming off.”

American Airlines said in a statement, “At American we have an unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our customers and team members and we are taking this matter very seriously. At the time of the incident, the aircraft was taken out of service, maintenance was performed and after a inspection to ensure it was safe the aircraft was returned to service. American immediately notified federal law enforcement who took over the investigation with our full cooperation.”

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