Shocking news came out of Evergreen Aviation today: A stop work order has been issued for their multi-million dollar 747 firefighting aircraft and the Supertanker organization within Evergreen is being dismantled. An internal memo (not for publication) stated that "I regret to advise you that the Evergreen Supertanker program and Evergreen Supertanker Services Inc. have been given a "Stop Work" order from the Evergreen Corporate Headquarters... As of close of business, Tuesday, 21 March 2007, the Evergreen Supertanker office in Marana, AZ. will be closed for business." Bob McAndrew, former president of the Supertanker organization, was stunned by the turn of events and the entire affair casts doubt on the future of the DC-10 Supertanker, the main competitor to the 747.
After probing a little deeper, it appears that leadership in the US Forest Service (USFS) and the FAA were not receptive to having an aircraft that would be used for both fighting fires and also hauling cargo (in the off-season). This was one of the key features of the Evergreen program because it allowed them to earn a profit between fire seasons (reportedly around $180,000 a day as a cargo transport). This seems strange because in years past, that was how other air-tanker companies made money – fighting fires during the fire season and hauling cargo during the rest of the year. Since many of the aircraft types employed by private contractors lent themselves well to this “double-duty” (principally because they were originally transport aircraft, bombers, and other aircraft with large holds), it made the business feasible, if not lucrative. The question that arises is: When did the FAA (and USFS, for that matter) turn a baleful eye towards this practice?
Another point of interest surrounds both houses of Congress sending members in to grill the USFS about some matters of operation. What exactly are they looking for? Does the hasty cancellation of the 747 program have anything to do with this investigation? And how will the DC-10 come out in light of this startling turn of events? The situation becomes curiouser and curiouser! Comments? Contact me at email@example.com.