updated 11/5/2006 3:56:34 PM ET 2006-11-05T20:56:34

Northwest Airlines Corp., which is working to emerge from bankruptcy, is planning to recall hundreds of furloughed pilots this year and next, more than it initially said it would recall, the pilot's union said.

Northwest, the nation's fifth-largest airline, sent letters to at least 425 pilots seeking to recall them as of Oct. 10 and expects to recall about 150 pilots more in the first half of 2007, according to a letter from Tim Campbell, Northwest vice president to pilots that was obtained by the Pioneer Press.

That is a large increase over the 40 or 50 pilots it told its pilots' union in August it would recall this year, the union said.

"We have been recalling pilots for the past three months to meet our needs," Northwest spokesman Roman Blahoski told the St. Paul newspaper.

The airline, which laid off up to 729 pilots after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, reduced service and filed for bankruptcy reorganization in September 2005, said it was recalling the pilots because of increased business and to fill spots vacated by pilots who had left the company.

The union said the pilot shortage had caused an increase in flight cancellations.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics show Northwest reported 693 canceled flights in September_1.9 percent of 36,358 scheduled flights. That compared with 492 canceled flights, or 1.3 percent, a year earlier.

Northwest pilots approved a contract earlier this year cutting their wages by 24 percent and saved the airline $358 million a year as the airline works to emerge from bankruptcy. Annual pilot wages at Northwest now range from $27,000 for newly hired pilots to $170,000 for a 747 captain.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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