A U.S. district judge has ordered Jerry Trooien's aircraft leasing business to return planes, engines and other equipment to GE Capital after defaulting on loans totaling $21.4 million, but an attorney for the St. Paul businessman said it's likely an agreement can be reached that will allow Trooien to keep the aircraft.

"We fully expect something [with GE Capital] will get worked out," George Eck said Friday. Attorneys for GE Capital could not be reached for comment.

Judge Joan Ericksen Thursday granted GE Capital's motion asking for the aircraft, engines and equipment to be returned. In court documents the lender said the planes currently were worth almost $12 million. More than $17 million is due on the loans, including interest and other penalties and fees.

GE Capital sued two aircraft leasing companies run by Trooien last month after they failed to make $330,000 in payments on the loans in April and May. GE Capital said the loans were made in 2001 and 2006.

A court order has prevented Trooien from using or moving the aircraft while the suit was being resolved. The order appears to have been issued in response to an e-mail Trooien sent to GE Capital saying he was trying to sell or redeploy the planes as soon as possible to satisfy the debt. The e-mail was one of the documents filed by GE Capital in connection with the suit.

Eck said Trooien's difficulties in paying on the loans stemmed from a legal dispute with JetChoice, another aircraft charter business that according to its recent bankruptcy court filings owes one of Trooien's businesses more than $2 million. In his e-mail to GE Capital, Trooien said he had loaned JetChoice almost $10 million. JetChoice listed total liabilities of $39.2 million and assets of $6.8 million in its Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.

Eck said a trial date for Trooien's suit against JetChoice has been scheduled for early next year in Ramsey County Court.

GE Capital is the second lender to sue Trooien and his aircraft businesses for failing to repay loans. Earlier this month Bank of America sued Trooien for failing to make payments on loans issued in 2001 and 2007 totaling $26.7 million for two planes. That suit still is pending.

Susan Feyder • 612-673-1723