Founded 1960 as Evergreen Helicopters
Headquarters McMinnville, Oregon, United States
Evergreen International Aviation, Inc. was a global aviation services company based in McMinnville, Oregon, United States. Founded in 1960, Evergreen was primarily known for commercial helicopter operations in agricultural and forestry applications. The airline division, Evergreen International Airlines, operated all-cargo Boeing 747 freighters. Evergreen ceased all aviation-related operations in 2013 due to financial challenges.
Monument to Capt Michael King Smith, USAF, son of Evergreen founder Del Smith, at the entrance to Evergreen International Aviation headquarters near the McMinnville Municipal Airport. Capt Smith, an F-15 Eagle pilot in the Oregon Air National Guard, was killed in an auto accident in 1995.
Delford M. Smith (1930-2014) founded the company as Evergreen Helicopters in 1960. Smith was a leading innovator in the commercial use of helicopters, and his company was the first to use helicopters for spraying fertilizer and herbicides, spreading seeds and fighting forest fires. Del Smith and maintenance supervisor Norman McGrew developed a helicopter spray system called the "PaceSpreader" which permitted accurate, fast delivery of granular agents over large areas. The PaceSpreader allowed the helicopter to operate at relatively high speeds while still delivering the product evenly and with measured precision. In 1972 the company expanded into the use of heavy lift helicopters, acquiring a number of Sikorsky S-61, known in Southeast Asia as the H-3 "Jolly Green Giant". In March 1973 the massive Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane was added to the fleet, with a lift capacity of 20,000 pounds.
In 1974 Smith became aware that the Johnson Flying Service was looking to sell its assets. The business was a small supplemental carrier that had two 94-passenger Lockheed L-188 Electra four-engine turbo-prop passenger aircraft. More importantly, it held a supplemental air carrier operating certificate which allowed it to operate as an airline. After significant deliberation, the Civil Aeronautics Board approved the transfer in 1975. Evergreen International Airlines was officially formed and incorporated on 16 April 1975 as a subsidiary of Evergreen Helicopters, Inc. The business subsequently continued to expand and split into a number of subsidiary divisions. The main subsidiary was Evergreen International Airlines which operated the Boeing 747 as a cargo or tanker aircraft to destinations around the world. The 747-200 "Evergreen Supertanker" can deliver 20,000 gallons of water on a fire, nearly ten times what can be delivered by a conventional forest service tanker such as the Lockheed P-3 Orion.
Scheduled passenger airline operations
The airline division conducted some scheduled passenger operations as well over the years with Douglas DC-8 jet and Lockheed L-188 Electra turboprop aircraft and also operated a commuter airline operation in southern California as Evergreen Airspur with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter STOL turboprops.
U.S. government work
Evergreen was part of the US Civil Reserve Air Fleet and the International Peace Operations Association. It was known to do work for the United States federal government, including fire suppression for the U.S. Forest Service, troop transportation in the Gulf War of 1991, as well as helicopter transportation for oil rig firefighters at the end of hostilities. The company provided aviation services for the Central Intelligence Agency as well, including transporting the Shah of Iran from Panama to the United States in 1980.
Sale of Evergreen Helicopters
Evergreen Helicopters was sold to Erickson Air-Crane in March 2013 in a $250 million deal. The sale provided Evergreen International Aviation with the liquidity it needed to continue operations. Said Mr. Smith: “The sale of EHI provides us with needed capital to repay existing debt and gives us the liquidity to support our airline and remaining businesses." The deal closed in the second quarter of 2013 and was contingent upon Erickson Air-Crane obtaining the necessary financing.
On November 8, 2013 Evergreen International Airlines, a subsidiary of Evergreen International Aviation, announced via a voicemail to their employees that all operations would cease effective November 29, 2013.
In 2014, Evergreen declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy and began a liquidation of assets, including its headquarters campus in McMinnville