Just in: Evergreen International Aviation Statement Concerning the Supertanker

Date: 6/29/12
Evergreen International Aviation Statement Concerning the Supertanker
We felt compelled to release this statement due to the overwhelming amount of calls we have
received concerning the availability of the Evergreen Supertanker. We at Evergreen are saddened
by the fire devastation now taking place in many Western US states. For over 60 years, we have
supported the US Forest Service in its important mission to battle and control fires, and it is our
desire to continue this rich history of service. While our helicopters continue to work fires for the
State of Alaska under State contracts, unfortunately, our Boeing 747 Supertanker Very Large Air
Tanker (VLAT) aircraft awaits activation with the US Forest Service.
We have never been told why we have not been activated by the US Forest Service, so we can
only speculate as to why we face this outcome:


1. We were offered a Call-When-Needed (CWN) contract a few years ago by the US Forest
Service (proving our technical viability), but we were never called into action resulting in
a multi-million dollar loss to our company as we were required to maintain and have
flight crew available should we be called. The only contract that will sustain a VLAT
program is an Exclusive-Use contract, which provides an income stream to sustain the
program even if the asset is not utilized. We invested over $50M to develop this asset in
the firm belief that we could better control fires as we proved in Israel and Mexico under
CWN contracts that we could afford to offer at the time.

2. There have been recent changes to the US Forest Service procurement policies. Today,
only small businesses are eligible for contract awards concerning air tanker assets;
Evergreen is not a small business and, therefore, is excluded from consideration for any

3. The US Forest Service’s specification for Next Generation Air Tanker aircraft limits tank
size to 5,000 gallons. The Supertanker’s tanks hold about 20,000 gallons, which is
considered outside the USFS specification. The USFS just awarded contracts to four
small businesses with aircraft equipped with these smaller tanks, and excluded the
Evergreen Supertanker. Since World War II, tank capacities have been in the 3,000 to
5,000 gallon range, yet we continue to face the growing threat from mega fires today. We
believe the Supertanker represents an overwhelming response to this growing threat.
Please contact your state representatives in Washington DC to demand an examination of their
current procurement policies concerning VLAT aircraft. The US Forest Service says it best:
“Only YOU can prevent wildfires.”

open as .pdf

Evergreen International Aviation, Inc. Tel: 503.472.9361 www.EvergreenAviation.com


  Evergreen Aviation:  747 Air Tanker facts


Strong Need for a Single National Aerial Firefighting Agency

Strong Need for a Single National Aerial Firefighting Agency

            Op-Ed By Mike Padilla               

The devastating fires that raged throughout the United States and particularly in Texas in 2011 have shown that U.S. aerial firefighting fleet is less than adequate to cope with the ever-increasing demands of protecting life and property

The demise of air resources can be attributed directly to the inability of the federal agencies that manage the fleet. They are unable to meet their responsibility of providing adequate numbers of aircraft and crews.

Conair Takes Off by Steve Nelson

Canada’s Conair  fighting Colorado fires in June 2012 – Photo by Steve Nelson

The major underlying reason for this degradation in service is the fragmented approach that the federal wildland firefighting community has had in fielding firefighting aircraft.  Numerous and often duplicative federal, state and local agencies are responsible for these aircraft.  All have differing and sometimes conflicting rules, regulations and standards for the acquisition, contracting, crew qualifications, maintenance and operation of these aircraft.  The resulting confusion of this costly bureaucratic morass is seen not only in skyrocketing budget breaking programs but delays and inadequate responses that cause unnecessary property loss and death.  This was typified in the Los Angeles County Station Fire of 2010 and the Bastrop fire in Texas this last year.

The unnecessary grounding by the Forest Service of the Aero Union P-3s half way through the fire season and the delay of the DC-10 on the Bastrop for supposed “safety” concerns underscores the lack of competency on the part of federal agencies in meeting their responsibly as a supplier of adequate aerial firefighting resources.

The time to centralize and coordinate the nation’s aerial firefighting aircraft has come.  We can no longer tolerate a costly, fragmented, disjointed and unprofessional approach to what is a very complex and highly technical field.  Unifying the national aerial firefighting effort under one agency will:

  • Improve and centralize national coordination of resources between local, state and federal agencies.
  • Reduce costs by reducing duplicity between agencies.
  • Standardize aircrew requirements, training, and carding.
  • Simplify and speedup aircraft contracting.
  • Establish a more coordinated and realistic future aircraft design and delivery requirements.
  • Establish a single national aircraft maintenance and inspection program.
  • Establish a grants and contracting mechanism to standardize and utilize local and state aerial firefighting resources.

It is important that when centralizing the national aerial firefighting fleet that state and local agencies in fire prone areas be allowed to take a greater role in the decision making and particularly in the operations of the national aerial firefighting fleet.  The Station and Bastrop fires are great examples where conflicting strategies and convoluted decision making lead to delays in the appropriate use of aerial assets.    The centralization of the firefighting fleet should not mean a continuation of federal priorities as the driving motivation for the acquisition, management, deployment and operation of these national assets.  State and local wildland firefighting agencies have different constituents who are demanding greater protection from their fire agencies.  Their contract with the federal agencies to provide adequate aerial firefighting aircraft is not being met.   “One size fits all” does not apply here.   By making local and state agencies equal partners in the national decision making process they become shareholders in important and long term decisions.

It’s time to bring a focused approach to the national aerial firefighting program by creating a single agency out of a confusion of many.  We can no longer afford to ignore our national obligation to protect lives and property with an archaic program that shift with the winds of Washington.

As we ground aircraft for supposed “safety” issues and delay responses, we have exceeded the capability of anyone to extinguish these fires except Mother Nature.

About the author:

Mike Padilla was the Chief of Aviation for Cal Fire from 2000 to 2009 and has fought wildland fires on the ground and in the air since 1964.  He is a commercial helicopter and airplane pilot, and holds a helicopter instructors license.  Mr. Padilla as a Cal Fire Air Operations officer and California National Guard pilot pioneered the Military Interagency Helicopter Aerial Firefighting Program and as Chief of Aviation was instrumental in fielding the DC-10 airtanker and modernizing Cal Fire’s current fleet of over 50 helicopters and airplane firefighting fleet.   Download PDF


Would you like to make a difference?   Please print and mail this article to your Congressional and State representatives.     Bloggers and Publishers, please reprint or post our work with links to Fireplanes.org. 

For updates, please visit  www.fireplanes.org

AD&M Publications – POB 170189  Austin, TX  78717        Phone (512) 796-5339


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