In 40 years, Evergreen expands around world

PHOTO/Courtesy Evergreen International Airlines Inc.
From helicopters to hazelnuts and from 747s to Christmas trees, Evergreen International Airlines Inc. has grown to one of the most diversified aviation companies in the world.

Founded in 1961 in a hangar at Anchorage’s Merrill Field by former crop duster and Air Force pilot Delford Smith, Evergreen International Airlines now employs more than 4,000 people at about 185 locations worldwide.

The company had more than $700 million in revenues last year from its dozen subsidiaries, whose services include air cargo handling and hauling, selling and leasing aircraft, and assorted agricultural enterprises.

Smith remains the sole owner.

"It’s the Alaska homegrown success story," said Greg Thies, Evergreen’s director of marketing in Anchorage.

Smith, who lived in Anchorage throughout the 1960s, established Evergreen’s corporate headquarters in McMinnville, Ore. But the company is anchored in Alaska, with a helicopter division, an aviation services and cargo company, and an avionics retail and service business, Avionics Specialists of Alaska Inc.

About 350 people are employed in Alaska by Evergreen.

Evergreen holds the U.S. Postal Service contract for Southeast Alaska, flying mail in DC-9s between Seattle, Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau.

Evergreen Helicopters of Alaska holds one of the oldest postal contracts in the United States, flying mail via helicopter from Nome to the tiny northwest communities of Diomede and Wales. The postal contract, begun in 1982, is the only one that uses helicopters to deliver the mail, Thies said.

Evergreen Aviation Ground Logistics Enterprises, or EAGLE, at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport handles more than 100,000 pounds of mail daily for the Postal Service, said Roger Kegley, EAGLE general manager. EAGLE also provides ground handling, aircraft maintenance, de-icing, cleaning and refueling for various air carriers in Anchorage.

Evergreen International has a fleet of 11 Boeing 747 cargo airplanes in worldwide service. About 26 of those flights arrive and depart Anchorage weekly.

Evergreen charters its Anchorage-based DC-9 airplane for cargo operations throughout Alaska, the Lower 48 and the Russian Far East.

From its Anchorage base, Evergreen runs operations for five Spanish-made turboprop CASAs, running passengers and cargo throughout Central America. The airplanes are based in Panama.

Evergreen’s health, safety and environmental management company is in Anchorage, a division that monitors and ensures the aviation company’s compliance with federal laws.

The company operates its Aerospaciale high-altitude mountain rescue helicopter, the Denali Lama, at Denali National Park and Preserve.

Evergreen Helicopters of Alaska started 40 years ago in a building that is now occupied by Dan’s Aircraft Repair Inc. The helicopter division is now across the street on Merrill Field Drive. The company’s helicopters provide firefighting, construction, oil exploration, movie filming and rescue support throughout Alaska.

Evergreen’s growth soared in the 1960s and 1970s, flying soldiers and cargo to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War era.

During that time, the company also operated passenger and cargo routes to the Bush for now-defunct Wien Air Alaska. Evergreen provided helicopters and airplanes during the construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and the oil exploration in the Gulf of Alaska and Prudhoe Bay.

The Alaska operations laid the groundwork for the Evergreen’s expansion around the world, Thies said.

Evergreen’s aviation services company provides logistics, ground handling and maintenance for carriers like United Parcel Service and the U.S. Postal Service at about 20 domestic airports. The company transports cargo for other airlines, freight forwarders and the U.S. government, including during wartime.

Evergreen Air Center at Pinal Air Park in Marana, Ariz., is the largest airplane storage and maintenance yard in the world. The 1,700 acre facility caters to commercial, military and private aircraft.

This summer, the company’s nonprofit Captain Michael King Smith Evergreen Aviation Educational Institution opened the Evergreen Aviation Heritage Museum in McMinnville, Ore. The museum features the HK-1 Howard Hughes "Spruce Goose" and many other historic aircraft from around the world.

Beyond aviation, the company owns Evergreen Agricultural Enterprises Inc., consisting of more than 6,000 acres of farms and nurseries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Evergreen produces nursery plants, grass seed, cereal grains, clover seed, walnuts, hazelnuts, wine grapes and Christmas trees sold in the United States and in international markets.

A subsidiary processes dried nuts, fruit, candies, cookies and chocolates under the brand name Evergreen Orchards.

Updated: 
11/04/2001 - 8:00pm