...As Lenders Line Up...

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So, as Delta and Northwest get ready to walk away from their pension responsibilities and leave creditors in the lurch you'd think it would be difficult for them to borrow money. Not so. The country's most powerful financiers are lining up to hand over billions to the airlines to fund their emergence from bankruptcy. That's because they can cut a special deal that guarantees they're first in line to see their money return, stepping in front of others further down the queue who stand to lose more if the deal goes sour. "The reality is the lenders usually come out OK," Samuel Engel, a vice president with aviation consultant Simat Helliesen and Eichner, told the Chicago Tribune. There aren't many lenders with pockets that deep but JP Morgan Chase and Co. and Citigroup both have deals already done or pending. General Electric also lends to the airlines, not just for the windfall that is all but guaranteed when the loans are repaid. The collapse of one of the big airlines would flood the market with surplus airplanes and that wouldn't be good for GE's jet engine or aircraft leasing businesses. "They want to minimize the impact of aircraft being taken out of the market," James Harris, president of Seneca Financial Group, told the Tribune.