Evergreen speculates that small business contracting requirements prevented the use of their Supertanker

747 air tanker dropping during a test in Arizona
747 air tanker dropping during a test in Arizona. Evergreen photo.

Evergreen International Aviation, the company that built the 20,000-gallon air tanker, or “Supertanker” as they call it, has released a statement that attempts to answer some of the many questions they have received asking why the U.S. Forest Service refuses to use the 747 air tanker, which carries about 10 times more than a P2V. The company says they have never received an explanation from the USFS, but speculates that contracting requirements favoring small businesses may be the reason.

The USFS only offered the two companies with Very Large Air Tankers call when needed contracts, not exclusive use contracts. Without any guaranteed income, Evergreen turned the offer down, while 10 Tanker Air Carrier is struggling to remain in business after accepting a CWN contract for one of their two DC-10 air tankers, which is used only rarely by the USFS.

Below is the text of Evergreen’s statement:


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 ForestService (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 contact 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 airtanker assets; Evergreen is not a small business and, therefore, is excluded from consideration for any award.

3. The US Forest Service’s specification for Next Generation Air Tanker aircraft limits tanksize 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 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 forest fires.”

Evergreen International Aviation, Inc., Tel: 503.472.9361

(end of statement)



Thanks go out to Hsaive

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

7 thoughts on “Evergreen speculates that small business contracting requirements prevented the use of their Supertanker”

  1. In Evergreen’s statement above they state, “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.”

    I searched for the US Forest Service’s site for specifications and found only the following regarding “Next Generation Air Tankers”. Nothing is said in regards limiting the tank size to 5,000 gallons.

    I would like to ask Evergreen Air if they filed The Request for Proposals (RFP) as instructed to do so by the US Forest Service and if so would they post the US Forest Service’s reply to that Proposal.

    USDA Forest Service


    Final Version Released February 10,2012 January 17,2012 Page 12

    The Forest Service, in partnership with the Department of the Interior, is already moving forward to contract for next generation aircraft. The recent RFI gauged interest in next generation large airtankers that could carry more than 3,000 gallons, were turbine powered and could fly faster than 300 knots. It drew an overwhelming response from industry. A dozen vendors responded with a dozen different aircraft alternatives. Aircraft proposed included the BAe-146, Boeing MD-87 and Bombardier Q400. There is interest and ability by a wide range of sources to provide aircraft to meet Federal next generation large airtanker requirements.
    The Request for Proposals (RFP) has been posted and will be open until January 31, 2012. This solicitation was specifically designed to allow new and existing contractors flexibility to enter into the
    USDA Forest Service next generation large airtanker business with time to develop airtankers, reducing financial risk and a stepped approach to contract awards.

    1. Joe Payne: Here is a quote from the Solicitation, or Request for Proposals:

      Aircraft must have a minimum acceptable payload of 2400 gallons (target of 3000-5000 gallons) and shall be capable of of a cruise speed of 300 knots (KTAS) with maximum payload.

  2. It says the forest service limited tank size to 5,ooo gal. How much does 10 Tanker hold?

  3. Thanks Evergreen for answering some of the questions why? Thirteen NEW fires yesterday throughout our country escaped containment. In Calfornia, which is about as fire prone as any place on Earth continues to have more than its share of “starts” each day. Through some kind of magic these fires go out before the next burning period. What are those red streakes along the black portion of the fires. Is this some kind of witch- craft?

  4. I think they are right when they quote “Only YOU can prevent forest fires” but USFS Fire Aviation Management does not listen to elected leaders or even lead planes for that matter.. A bipartisan group of senators have already made it as clear as they possibly can about use and contracting the VLATs. They are a disgrace.


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