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Fri, Mar 18, 2005

NWA Grounds DC-9s, Lays Off 130 Mechanics

Airline: 800 More Cuts Could Follow

Northwest Airlines says it's grounded two dozen of its aircraft and laid off 130 mechanics. The airline said it's now looking at further downsizing its technical workforce and could soon lay off another 700-800 mechanics.

Ironically, most of the aircraft grounded are McDonnell Douglas DC-9s. Just a month ago, ANN reported that these aging aircraft made Northwest's one of the oldest fleets in commercial aviation. The problem is, they're... well... gas hogs. With fuel prices at record levels and showing no sign of moderating, the DC-9s, though practical in some ways, have simply become too expensive to operate.

The 130 mechanics laid off from the company's Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, hub, were generally associated with maintaining the DC-9s. In contrast, Northwest's newer Airbus A319s are about 30-percent more fuel efficient. The airline says it will close the heavy maintenance shop at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The move comes as Northwest and its mechanics' union are in contract negotiations. Local union president Ted Ludwig said the threat of up to 800 more mechanic layoffs may be nothing more than a negotiating tactic. Still, since 2000, the airline has laid off a total of 3,700 mechanics.

The ALPA says grounding the 24 aircraft means about 60 NWA pilots who were to be recalled will remain on furlough.

FMI: www.nwa.com

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