Champion Air could fly for Northwest Airlines

Champion Air could be doing some flying for Northwest Airlines if mechanics strike at Northwest later this month, both airlines said.

Northwest has said it plans to maintain a full schedule if mechanics strike, and it has been arranging with contractors and replacement workers to work on its planes. But the possible arrangement with charter carrier Champion is the first time

Northwest, whose operations include a hub in Memphis, Tenn., has

acknowledged that it might shift flights to another carrier.

Flying with Champion planes and pilots would antagonize Northwest's pilots union, which has already taken cuts and urged other airline workers to do the same.

Using Champion pilots to operate Northwest flights would be "a clear violation of our contract," said Mark McClain, chairman of the pilots union.

He said the pilots union contract allows Northwest to use Champion for charter flights, but requires scheduled service flights to be flown by Northwest pilots.

Champion and Northwest pilots are both represented by the Air Line Pilots Association.

Champion spokesman Jon Austin said the airline has discussed contingency flying with Northwest, but he said no decision had been made.

Northwest mechanics can strike after 12:01 a.m. EDT on Aug. 20.

Both the airline and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association have said they want to reach a deal, but mechanics walked away from talks last week because management continued to press for $176 million in cutbacks from them.

"Northwest is doing absolutely nothing to indicate they want an agreement," AMFA assistant national director Steve MacFarlane said Sunday.

MacFarlane said he was aware that Northwest was considering using Champion for some flights if there's a strike. He questioned why Northwest would make a backup plan with Champion when Northwest managers have said they will operate a full schedule with replacement workers and outside vendors.

"Northwest must not be so confident of its replacement workers if they are shopping around for additional aircraft" from Champion, MacFarlane said.