Where Is The Evergreen 747 Supertanker?

One year ago I pondered why the Forest Service killed the deal with Evergreen for use of the 747 Supertanker. The decision was made by a non firefighting administrator just prior to a contract signing.

Had smarter heads prevailed we would be seeing the giant air tanker dropping retardant and water over fires today. What a welcomed sight that would have been.

The Evergreen 747 Supertanker can hold 24,000 gallons of retardant, twice what Cal Fire’s Tanker 910 delivers.

Tanker 910 has proven valuable to wildfire tacticians since it was put into operation last year. Tanker 910 is the big star of any fire it’s assigned to.

There is no question the future of air tankers is here, supertankers have proven value in wildfire suppression.

Here is a promotional video produced by Evergreeen International last year. Shortly after the this video was produced the Forest Service tore up the contract.


Once the deal was killed Evergreen announced the aircraft was converted to a cargo craft. Kind of like putting Secretariat out to pasture before he ever ran a race.


  • dboard9 says:

    I smile when I read comments like "…fires are put out every year by firefighters, no doubt with God's help."

    God is the original arsonist –
    the NFPA estimates that an average of 7850 fires are started by lightning every year in the US alone!

  • Anonymous says:

    Yesterday this plane worked in cuenca, Spain, town of Poyatos, failing in the purpose as the fire was in quite rough terrain, and unloading was done too high. so it's supposed to work ok in plain fire but on the mountain it has been a big faliure. also all the other ships like canadair or helicopters must go to allow 747 to act so they loose their time.

    for mountain fire work better a few helicopters and some canadair and it's even cheaper…
    here the link to the info

    sorry for the mistakes writing in english and greetings from spain

  • Anonymous says:

    I am not in the firefighting business but I do have an update. The original Supertanker is back in service as a cargo airplane making hauls where necessary. The 2nd Supertanker however was recently given an STC and approved by the air tanker board. I currently work for Evergreen and the aircraft was just in Sacramento doing drop tests for CalFire. I think everyone understands where a Supertanker can really be beneficial. In Southern CA with the Santa Ana winds taking homes every year and firefighters getting killed would be a great place to start. With a drop length of 3 miles it might help fire crews out when are in a very dangerous situation. We all know a 747 can not fly through the canyons safely at least as a pilot, I sure wouldn't want to make the attempt. it does have the capability of flying at night though.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the blog and the Supertanker N479EV (Tanker 949) is ready to go and hopefully will be able to help you out this year on the front lines.

  • Anonymous says:

    According to the FAA, N470EV – aka Evergreen Supertanker is still in service and has NOT been scrapped. However, it HAS been put back into the freight business.

  • Former Evergreen Dude says:

    I spent many hours running parts for the techs working on Evergreen’s firefighter about 3 years ago. Been around the bird, inside the bird, even stuck my head and shoulders into the centerwing fuel tank (the rest of me was too wide for the access panel.) Got to watch ’em adjust the rigging on the gear…and let me tell you a 747 on jacks in a hangar with the gear up is one awesome sight. Alas, the last I heard, Evergreen cut the bird up for scrap. The top dawg at the company is/was one odd bird himself, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the real reason there was no contract was something to do with the way he does business. Politics!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Regarding large tankers:Here is a post from the Wildlandfire.com hotlist about large tankers (the Canadian ‘Martin Mars’ water-tanker:http://www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=6450The poster says that the large tanker disrupted normal airops for the rest of the fire, and that the drops were ineffective in corraling a timber fire on steep ground. I had some experience with the Supertanker during the Humboldt Fire, in Butte County this summer.We got several drops from the DC-10 Supertanker, but ‘terrain shadowing’ (lack of retardant penetration in the leeward faces of steep arroyos) let the fire burn thru the retardant lines and none of the retardant lines that we got on the first day held. Quote from the forum.”I also think the Martin Mars is a wonderful aircraft. I have to respond to the story posted, however.Our team used the Mars on the Yolla Bolly Complex recently. We completed seven drops on a slopover on two consecutive days. The terrain was mountainous with a heavy timber canopy. In conjunction with the Mars, we were using three helicopters in a daisy chain with six minute return times. Airspace had to be cleared for up to an hour to receive each Mars drop. Intel from ground forces indicated, after each drop, that the water from the Mars had little effect. What we gave up in using the Mars was the pinpoint drops by type 1helicopters who had to clear the airspace. Ground forces much preferred the helicopter support and requested that we terminate the use of the mars so that helicopter support wouldn’t be interrupted. Total cost of the Mars? $123,000 for seven drops. Our team included discontinuing use of the Mars in the daily KDL (key decision log) as a cost savings.As I said initially, I too am a fan of the aircraft but it’s just a tool like any other. The tone of the newspaper story is that the Mars is something of a “golden bullet”. It ain’t so. It’s a very expensive aircraft with specific talents and limitations. In our experience it has limited utility in mountainous terrain with heavy timber canopy.”

  • Mike says:

    Imagine three 747 Supertankers and a couple of DC-10’s delivering a revolving line of 84,000 gallons of water or gell on a wildfire.I think we all know this would put a dent in firefighting budgets.I think that is the real fear of putting such a fleet into operation.Mike

  • Anonymous says:

    The Supertankers, ( DC-10, Martin Mars and someday the 747) have been used on brush and grass fires, but with the DC-10 at $30,000 per hour with a 3 hour minimum, or $90,000 every time it is ordered, is it worth that? Think of how many ground resources that would pay for 3 hours work of. The 747 will be an even higher cost. The DC-10 also hit trees and almost crashed last season, on a large grass fire. Grass goes out quickly, and can be easily put out with Engines. Why pay $90,000 to put it out? And the jet wash, and air vortices that these large jets put out affect the fires, too, and these big jets can not penetrate the canopy in Timber or heavy brush. Gov. Arnold likes to bring it out, the DC-10, but ask anyione in Fire who has worked with it, its all eyewash for the media. He also said California would buy 200 new Helicopters for its fleet. Well, Bell helicopter can not build that many in one year, the cost is about $3 million EACH, and then they would have to hire Helicopter pilots and helitack crews, with vacancies everywhere already, and the State is broke. Not to mention the minimimum of $3-5 Million to build a new helibase to current standards….Nice sound bite for the media, like the DC-10, but hardly a solution to overbuilding in California brushfields…

  • Anonymous says:

    “While the Supertankers work well on large range fires, I am worried that they’ll give a false sense of security to people, making htem think that we can actually put large timber fires out. We can’t. Weather and God are the only ones that can.”I think that a better quote would have been “No amount of air support can put out established and running forest fires which are in alignment with heavy fuels, slope and weather (aka plume dominated fires like last-year’s Moonlight Fire or Antelope Complex).I worked with a veteran Air Attack who was of the opinion that if we took all of the heavy airtankers and Type I helicopters in the country and used them ONLY for initial attack (not on campaign fires) that we would NOT significantly reduce the total amount of acres burned annually.

  • Mike says:

    Had the Telegraph Fire been treated like the Indians or Basin Fires Mariposa would have burned to the ground as well as Midpines, Bootjack and El Portal.Direct attack by Cal Fire combined with dedicated structure protection AND the commitment to a full scale air assault saved the area.

  • Mike D. says:

    Numerous large “timber” fires are put out every year by firefighters, no doubt with God’s help. For instance, on June 13th of this year the Cold Springs Fire erupted in thick forest on the south side of Mt. Adams, WA. In one day it expanded to 7,000 acres. The Central Oregon Type II IMT (Rapp) was called in. Within three days they had it mostly contained, despite strong Columbia Gorge winds. The fire was halted at 7,980 acres by June 20th (a Red Flag wind Warning day, btw).The Telegraph Fire blew up in the difficult and fuel-laden terrain of Mariposa County last month. Did Cal Fire throw up their hands and say we just can’t deal with it, we must wait for dousing rain? No, they contained and controlled the fire with ample air support in a matter of days, saving thousands of homes and perhaps hundreds of thousands of acres of forest.Last year numerous fires on the central Idaho Batholith were declared too much for firefighters to possibly cope with. That is, until the Castle Rock Fire threatened Ketchum, whereupon the fire was contained within a few days with minimal damage to private lands and homes.The defeatist attitude expressed above is not consistent with the factual evidence. Thank God our fire establishment does not share that viewpoint.

  • Mike says:

    Anon, I appreciate your perspective.

  • Anonymous says:

    I’d heard that Evergreen was making $1 Million a day hauling cargo to I-rak with the same plane. I’m sure that they are not hurting for the cash. I am not convinced that Supertankers are a good buy. The USFS is already broke with their current costs, and the Supertanker is not going to put out large timber fires once they are established anyway. I did some work for NorthOps on the first few days of the recent lightning bust trying to figure out where all of the fires were – we had no exact locations for all of the fires FOR DAYS! Satellite heat detection tools are great, but they only cycle every 12 hours, and some orbits are too low on the horizon to catch all of the heat. That and all of the smoke made aerial recon impossible. By the time we knew where fires were, many of them were too well established to be fought even with a Supertanker, and were going to burn until they ran out of fuel or slope.While the Supertankers work well on large range fires, I am worried that they’ll give a false sense of security to people, making htem think that we can actually put large timber fires out. We can’t. Weather and God are the only ones that can.

  • Dan Meinhard says:

    Ponder then rememeber… the federal government had something to do with it and then your answer is clear. Common scense is not part of most operations in the Fed. Govt. If it makes good sense, then it usually is not be done… especially if it is cost effective and sometimes safer. DM

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