Evergreen International Airlines

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Evergreen International Airlines
Evergreen Airlines logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Commenced operationsNovember 28, 1975
Ceased operationsDecember 31, 2013
Fleet size4
Parent companyEvergreen International Aviation
HeadquartersMcMinnville, Oregon
N473EV (operated as Japan Airlines flight 46 Echo), parked at Anchorage, Alaska after separation of the number two engine during an encounter with extreme turbulence.

Evergreen International Airlines was a charter and cargo airline based in McMinnville, Oregon, United States. Wholly owned by Evergreen International Aviation, it had longstanding ties to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[2] It operated contract freight services, offering charters and scheduled flights, as well as wet lease services. It operated services for the U.S. military and the United States Postal Service, as well as ad hoc charter flights. Its crew base was at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York.[3]

Evergreen also maintained a large aircraft maintenance and storage facility at the Pinal Airpark in Marana, Arizona, that the company acquired from the CIA's Air America operation.[4][5][6]


CIA front[edit]

The airline was established by Delford Smith (founder and owner) and began operations in 1960 as Evergreen Helicopters. It acquired the operating certificate of alleged Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) front company Johnson Flying Service[7] and merged it with Intermountain Airlines (a known CIA front) from Pacific Corporation (also a CIA front) in 1975 to form Evergreen International Airlines. The holding company, Evergreen International Aviation, formed in 1979, wholly owned the airline.[3] Evergreen also purchased the assets of Air America which had provided fixed wing and helicopter support for the CIA in southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict.

Evergreen served as an Agency front widely over its history:[8][2]

Wherever there was a hot spot in the world, Evergreen’s helicopters and later airplanes were never far behind. Evergreen’s hardware was so inextricably linked with political intrigue that rumors swirled that the company was owned by, or a front for, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Indeed, several of the company’s senior executives either worked for the agency or had close ties to it.

Smith never let on, disingenuously telling the Portland Oregonian in 1988, “We don’t know when we’ve ever worked for them [the CIA], but if we did we’re proud of it. We believe in patriotism, and, you know, they’re not the [Russian spy service] KGB.”[7]

Evergreen bought assets during the 1970s that were previously linked to CIA operations including Montana’s Johnson Flying Service and the CIA’s aviation 'skunk works' located at the Pinal Airpark in Arizona where Evergreen subsequently performed special maintenance such as servicing the NASA operated Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) used to transport the Space Shuttle. Evergreen subsequently sold the Pinal Airpark facility to Relativity Capital in 2011.[7]

Officially, the company provided "aviation services" for the CIA, including illegal-drug abatement spraying in Mexico and South America and transporting the Shah of Iran from Egypt to Panama,[7] then Panama to the United States in 1980.[9] Shortly thereafter it ran mysterious missions to El Salvador and Nicaragua.[2]

As public government contractor[edit]

Evergreen performed more than military and intelligence community work, also servicing other government agencies in the U.S. as well as in other nations. Its Boeing 747 Supertanker aircraft was used as an firefighting air tanker from Israel to Mexico; its unmanned systems division flew drone flights over disaster zones; NASA hired it to operate its flying infrared observatory;[2] its aircraft supported United Nations peacekeeping operations in 30 countries; flew insect-eradication missions throughout Africa; provided helicopter support for the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service; and operated helicopters for FEMA following Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Commercially, the airline helped build the Trans-Alaska Pipeline; and developed and serviced the offshore oil and gas market with helicopter support worldwide via its Evergreen Helicopters division.[7]

"All told, Smith said his company flew in 168 countries over the years. 'We were all over the world. Everywhere they needed a helicopter, they needed an airplane as well,'" said Smith.[7]

Aircraft in film[edit]

One of Evergreen's Boeing 747 airplanes (registered N473EV, which suffered an in-flight engine separation in 1993)[10] starred in the 1990 action film Die Hard 2.[11]


On November 9, 2013, it was announced that Evergreen Airlines would close on November 30, 2013 due to financial troubles.[12][13] This information was initially denied by Evergreen, but shortly afterwards admitted:[14] "Evergreen International Airlines flew its last flight Monday [December 2, 2013] Mike Hines, chairman of its parent company board, acknowledged..."[15]

On December 31, 2013, Evergreen International Airlines filed a Chapter 7 petition in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware. The bankruptcy filing lists seven entities as submitting the Chapter 7 petition: Evergreen Aviation Ground Logistics Enterprise, Evergreen Defense and Security Services, Evergreen International Airlines, Evergreen International Aviation, Evergreen Systems Logistics, Evergreen Trade, and Supertanker Services.[16]

In June of 2014, Evergreen had declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy[17][18] and began a liquidation of assets, including its headquarters campus in McMinnville.[19]

By the time of Smith's death November 7, 2014, the remains of his once billion-dollar Evergreen Aviation empire had been sold off, shut down, or was in bankruptcy and under investigation by tax authorities.[7]


Evergreen International Airlines operated the following freight services (as of December 2012):[citation needed]


An Evergreen Boeing 747-200F taxiing at Frankfurt Hahn Airport, Germany. (2010)
An Evergreen Boeing 747-200F taxiing at Frankfurt Hahn Airport, Germany. (2010)
Boeing 747-230F landing at Stockholm - Arlanda
An Evergreen Boeing 747-200C. (2007)
Evergreen International Douglas DC-8-61CF
Evergreen International McDonnell Douglas DC-9-15(F)

The Evergreen International Airlines fleet consisted of the following aircraft (as of December 2012):[20]

Evergreen International Airlines Fleet
Aircraft In Fleet Orders Stored Notes
Boeing 747-100SF 11 Supertanker
1 stored at VCV
Boeing 747-200C 2 Also used in charter service
Boeing 747-200B/SF 6
Boeing 747-200F/SCD 1
Boeing 747-400BDSF 1
Boeing 747-400BCF 2
Boeing 747-400F 1 Operated for Saudia

Evergreen previously operated three Boeing Dreamlifters to transport the Boeing 787 parts to Boeing, but the contract was given to Atlas Air in September 2010. This was due to Boeing's rescheduled delivery of the Boeing 747-8Fs ordered by Atlas Air to increase their current fleet. The "Dreamlifter" is the logistic support aircraft for Boeing's global Boeing 787 Dreamliner production.[21] The company was also scheduled to operate the SOFIA Boeing 747SP aircraft for NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA (in the silicon valley near San Jose).[22]

The airline modified a Boeing 747-100 for aerial firefighting, receiving final certification from the FAA in October 2006.[23] Compared to existing large water bombers and airtankers, the Evergreen Supertanker was planned to offer at least seven times more fire retardant capacity.[24] In December, 2010, Israel hired Evergreen's fire-fighting aircraft to assist in firefighting efforts of the 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire.[25]

In August 2007, Evergreen announced that it had ordered 3 Boeing 747-400BCFs to upgrade its commercial operations, with deliveries in summer 2009.[26] In March 2010, the orders had not yet been delivered. In December 2012, Evergreen ceased operations of the last three 747-200s; they are parked at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease.

Retired fleet[edit]

As of August 2006, Evergreen International Airlines previously operated the following aircraft:[27][28][29]

A division of Evergreen, Evergreen Airspur, also operated de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter STOL aircraft in scheduled commuter airline operations in southern California.[30]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • March 18, 1989: Evergreen International Airlines Flight 17, a DC-9 was on a cargo flight from Kelly Air Force Base outside San Antonio to Tinker Air Force Base outside of Oklahoma City, with a stop at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. As the plane was departing, the cargo door on the plane opened; the pilot immediately requested emergency return to Carswell. As the plane was approaching on base leg, the cargo door fully opened, which caused the plane to yaw to the left and right, and then roll, until crashing near Saginaw in an inverted position. Both pilots on board were killed. The investigation found that when closing the cargo door, the copilot did not close it fully, but since the locked and latched indicators were applied incorrectly, the copilot thought the door was fully locked.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Norwood, Tom; Wegg, John (2002). North American Airlines Handbook (3rd ed.). Sandpoint, ID: Airways International. ISBN 0-9653993-8-9. Archived from the original on 2016-11-28. Retrieved 2018-09-11.
  2. ^ a b c d Legendary CIA Airline Now in Danger of Crashing", Wired magazine, June 6, 2011
  3. ^ a b "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. 2007-04-03. pp. 79–80.
  4. ^ Evergreen Maintenance Center, Inc.
  5. ^ Thomas, Evan (April 7, 1986). "American Scene, In Arizona: A Spymaster Remembered". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on 2009-07-10. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  6. ^ Long, James; Lauren Cowen (1988-08-14). "The Evergreen Story, Part 1". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Evergreen's Del Smith Dead at 84", Aviation International News online, Mark Huber, December 7, 2014
  8. ^ Evergreen International Aviation at sourcewatch.org
  9. ^ Bates, David (21 December 1999). "Airline With an Attitude: A Special Report on Evergreen Aviation". Yamhill Valley News-Register. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011.
  10. ^ National Transportation Safety Board, "Aircraft Accident Report / In-flight Engine Separation / Japan Airlines, Inc., Flight 46E / Boeing 747-121, N473EV / Anchorage, Alaska / March 31, 1993"
  11. ^ Simon D. Beck, "The Aircraft-Spotter's Film and Television Companion"
  12. ^ Montesano, Nicole (November 8, 2013). "Evergreen Airlines to close". Statesman-Journal. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013.
  13. ^ Read, Richard (November 9, 2013). "Evergreen ran out of runway; Company closing down after struggling with rising fuel prices and runaway debt". The Oregonian. p. B7. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  14. ^ Official press release
  15. ^ Montesano, Nicole (December 6, 2013). "Evergreen lands its last flight". Yamhill Valley News-Register. p. 1. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  16. ^ Francis, Mike (January 1, 2014). "Evergreen International Airlines files voluntary Chapter 7 petition on New Year's Eve". The Oregonian. Portland, OR. Retrieved 2014-01-11.
  17. ^ "Evergreen International Airlines files voluntary Chapter 7 petition on New Year's Eve". OregonLive.com. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
  18. ^ "Evergreen International Airlines Chapter 7 Petition" (PDF). PacerMonitor. PacerMonitor. Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  19. ^ Giegerich, Andy (August 20, 2014). "Report: Evergreen's McMinnville campus draws interest from three buyers". Portland Business Journal. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  20. ^ Evergreen International Airlines Fleet
  21. ^ "Boeing News Release". Archived from the original on 2012-05-09.
  22. ^ "The SOFIA Boeing 747SP". Archived from the original on 2006-11-13.
  23. ^ "Giant jet unlikely to attack California fire".
  24. ^ "Supertanker Contract Could Land Firefighting Jet in Area".[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ "Evergreen Supertanker on its way to Israel - Israel News, Ynetnews". Ynetnews.com. 1995-06-20. Retrieved 2012-05-17.
  26. ^ "Evergreen orders 747-400BCFs" Flight Global, 14/08/07
  27. ^ "Evergreen International Airlines Fleet". Planespotters. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  28. ^ "Evergreen International Airlines Fleet". PlaneLogger. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  29. ^ "Evergreen International Airlines". rzjets. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  30. ^ http://www.airliners.net, photo of Evergreen Airspur DHC-6 Twin Otter at LAX
  31. ^ ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-9-33RC N931F Saginaw, TX
  32. ^ "In-Flight Engine Separation Japan Airlines, Inc., Flight 46E Boeing 747-121, N473EV" (PDF).

External links[edit]