Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
A Las Vegas federal judge partially lifted a court order that grounded four of TriStar Airlines' 100-passenger jets, allowing the company to return to the air with one.
U.S. District Judge Philip Pro relented Monday after the Las Vegas-based airline said his decision threatened TriStar's certification with the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Last week, Pro ordered the planes grounded after their owner, British Aerospace Holdings, sued for their return. The owner, which had been leasing the four BAe-146 jets to TriStar, terminated its lease last month and accused the airline of owing $3 million.
"I want my client's planes back," British Aerospace attorney William Noall said after Monday's court hearing.
TriStar attorney Tom Kummer has defended the airline's decision to not return the planes, arguing that British Aerospace broke its lease.
TriStar and its 175 employees flew regularly scheduled routes between Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The majority of TriStar employees reportedly have been furloughed since the planes were grounded.
In modifying his temporary restraining order, Pro ordered the airline to post a $78,000 bond before it can resume flying the one plane. He prohibited the aircraft from operating outside the United States and ordered TriStar to pay cash for all of the four-engine jet's parts and labor.
Pro will review his decision Nov. 12, when TriStar and British Aerospace return to court for a preliminary injunction hearing.
British Aerospace attorneys are expected to argue once again that all four planes should be returned or at least grounded. And despite being able to claim a partial victory in the first court battle, TriStar's attorney is not overly optimistic.
The decision to let one plane fly is "certainly a step in the right direction, but it doesn't necessarily predict the results -- though we hope it does," Kummer said.
TriStar, which began operations in Las Vegas in summer 1995, flew regularly scheduled routes between the West Coast and Southern Nevada, marketing Asian tourists wanting to get to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
The company also started a lucrative charter service, ferrying Southern Californians to Aspen, Colo.
Last summer, TriStar abandoned the Grand Canyon route and most recently announced it was getting out of scheduled service in favor of concentrating on charters.