Northwest Airlines's parent company reportedly has joined with Oregon-based PacifiCorp in an effort to buy the Pan Am shuttle.

PacifiCorp, a utilities-holding company with a financial-services subsidiary, would supply $150 million to purchase the shuttle, which Northwest would then operate with an option to buy, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, citing people "familiar with the arrangement."

Officials of both airlines declined to comment on the report yesterday. Executives of PacifiCorp, based in Portland, could not be reached.

NWA spokesman Doug Miller said yesterday, however, that the carrier remains interested in expanding through acquisition. The company already maintains operations at both National Airport and Dulles International Airport, as well as in New York and Boston. If it were to acquire the Pan Am shuttle, Northwest would become the top carrier on the Washington-New York-Boston route.

The sale of the Pan Am shuttle to Northwest "would make a lot of sense," said David Campbell, an airline industry analyst with Scott & Stringfellow, a brokerage firm based in Richmond. "Pan Am has tried to sell {the shuttle} before, but it didn't have buyers with the financing," Campbell said. Pan Am Corp. announced the shuttle was for sale last May.

Financially beleaguered Pan Am Corp. has been seeking buyers for some of its assets in an effort to keep flying. The New York company said Friday that it was willing to accept a $375 million offer for its Pan Am World Airways unit from another weak carrier, Trans World Airlines, in a deal that would keep both airlines going. The TWA-Pan Am transaction, however, is heavily contingent on Pan Am obtaining a loan from TWA to keep it in business until the merger is approved by shareholders and federal regulators.

Pan Am has also announced its intention to sell its routes from the United States to London, to UAL Inc., United Airlines's parent, for $400 million. Pan Am said that UAL had agreed to advance it $20 million yesterday as part of that deal.

PacifiCorp owns Pacific Power & Light of Portland and Utah Power & Light of Salt Lake City. It derives about 40 percent of its $3.7 billion in annual revenue from nonelectric sources, however, such as a minerals-mining subsidiary and PacifiCorp Financial Services, a commercial leasing and lending company that works in the airline business.

Campbell estimated the Pan Am shuttle's market share at 55 percent, with its only rival, the Trump shuttle, holding the balance. The five-year-old Pan Am shuttle is modestly profitable, he said, while its rival loses money.

Pan Am Corp. bid unsuccessfully for NWA Inc. in 1989. And NWA last year expressed interest in buying the Eastern shuttle before Donald Trump purchased it for $365 million.

Pan Am has stayed in business despite losing more than $2 billion in the past decade. But the recession and rise in fuel prices triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2 have landed nearly fatal blows.

The reported purchase price of $150 million for the Pan Am shuttle is nearly 60 percent less than the amount Trump paid for the Eastern shuttle in mid-1989. However, the Pan Am shuttle is expected to fetch a lower price because it leases its planes, unlike the Trump operation, which owns its aircraft.