Aviation giants plow big money into pension funds

Two aviation companies are set to put hundreds of millions of dollars into their pension funds this year and one said it contributed billions last year.

Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Md., revealed that had contributed $2.25 billion in 2013. That compared to $3.6 billion in 2012. The aircraft maker, which announced earnings were down in the fourth quarter because of government cutbacks, said it planned to add $1 billion more this year to its worldwide retirement plan.

During its earnings call this week, Lockheed Martin officials said the company contributed $750 million to its pension fund in the fourth quarter alone.

The company’s pension plan for U.S. workers was closed to new hires in 2006. At the end of September, the plan had about $31 billion in assets.

United Continental Holdings, the Chicago company formed as the result of a merger, will contribute $290 million to its pension fund this year, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

During the company’s earnings call this week, John D. Rainey, CFO and executive vice president, said the plan had a little more than $1.5 billion in unfunded liabilities at the end of the third quarter. Rainey added that a rising discount rate used to calculate future liabilities in its three pension funds would help the company this year.

He said expenses for pension and postretirement benefits would decrease by $100 million this year over last.

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