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Delta, PBGC closer to pilot pension plan transfer


WASHINGTON--The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and Delta Air Lines Inc. have reached an agreement that is another step toward shifting Delta's massively underfunded pilots' pension plan to the PBGC.

Under the settlement agreement, which Delta announced Monday, the PBGC will make a final decision on whether to accept a PBGC staff recommendation that Delta qualifies for a distress termination of the plan.

If the agency accepts the staff recommendation, as is likely, a Sept. 2, 2006, termination date would be set. The PBGC would settle all claims against Delta, which is in bankruptcy reorganization, and hold a $2.2 billion unsecured claim against Delta while also receiving $225 million in senior unsecured notes.

A federal bankruptcy court earlier approved termination of the plan, which covers about 13,000 former and current Delta pilots. The PBGC previously estimated that the plan had about $1.7 billion in assets and about $4.7 billion in liabilities, of which the PBGC would guarantee $913 million.

Atlanta-based Delta said it intends to keep a much larger plan that covers about 91,000 other employees and retirees. Delta successfully lobbied Congress to include a provision in pension legislation that Congress passed in August that gives the Atlanta-based airline more time to fund the plan.