Oregon aviation pioneer Del Smith died almost two years ago but one of his biggest dreams takes flight this week.
Smith built Evergreen Helicopter, founded 66 years ago, into a worldwide air cargo business that spanned the world from Beijing, to Dubai, to its home in McMinnville, Oregon. He spent 50 million dollars of his own money to create the biggest airborne firefighting platform based on a 747 cargo jet that dwarfed other planes. It fought wildfires in Mexico and Israel, but America’s federal government refused to use it. Del died and the plane disappeared in a bankruptcy.
This week, Global Supertanker, the company that bought Evergreen’s assets, rolls out Del’s dream; a new version of the 747 firefighting plane. It can lay down tens of thousands of gallons, literally miles of water or retardant to stop a blaze and save lives; just in time for this year’s fire season. When the fires are out, the plane is capable of hydro seeding new grass and trees, quickly and economically.
Somewhere up there in Heaven, I think Del Smith is smiling.
Global Supertanker’s Jim Wheeler joined me on the show to discuss the flight of the firefighting 747: