747 Supertanker still stored at Marana, but now has engines

747 Supertanker, Marana
747 Supertanker at Marana, AZ,, May 31, 2015. Florida Metal photo used with permission.

The 747 Supertanker, formerly owned by Evergreen until the company went bankrupt, has been in storage at Marana, Arizona for at least a couple of years. Most of that time Tanker 979 it has not had engines, but these photos from December, 2014 and May 31, 2015 show engines on the aircraft.

We attempted to call our former contacts at Evergreen, and not surprisingly, the phone number is no longer in service. So we’re not sure what’s going on with the Supertanker. Maybe it’s being prepped to be sold, or has been sold, however the registration still lists Evergreen International Airlines as the owner of #N479EV. Or maybe the owner had hoped to get one of the Call When Needed contracts that were awarded a few weeks ago.

“Florida Metal”, who gave us permission to use the May 31, 2015 photo, told us:

I saw about 3 Evergreen Supertankers there, or at least painted that way. There were another bunch of Evergreen 747s sitting there. They all had their engines on them so they might fly again, but being that these are 100 series not sure if they will bother and maybe instead convert a newer 400?

747 Supertanker, Marana
747 Supertanker at Marana, AZ, December, 2014. Photo by Nicholas Young, Nick Young Photos. Used with permission.

Evergreen produced two versions of the Supertanker that we are aware of. The first had rather crude tanks and could not carry the weight of retardant in the tanks. It was only authorized to use water, which is about a pound lighter per gallon, so it never received a contract with the U.S. Forest Service as an air tanker. Then the company converted another 747 with higher-tech, lighter tanks, which enabled it to use 20,000 gallons of retardant. It received certification from the Interagency AirTanker Board in March, 2009 and got a CAL FIRE contract in July, 2009, but only as a Call When Needed air tanker.

Evergreen's 747 "Supertanker"
Evergreen’s 747 “Supertanker” drops on the Railbelt Complex of fires in Alaska, July 31, 2009.

When it received a CWN contract from the USFS on June 14, 2013, the aircraft had been sitting at Marana without engines and needed a million-dollar “C” check in addition to other maintenance. The company decided that with an expensive expedited “C” check and the other needed work, it could have been ready to fight fire about the time the 2013 western fire season was drawing to a close. And the CWN contract had no guarantee of any revenue. So Bob Soelberg, the Vice President of Evergreen Supertanker Services, said they would wait until the next year to get the maintenance done. A few months later the company ceased to exist.

747 air tanker 979
Tanker 979 at San Bernardino Air Tanker Base, July 30, 2010. USFS photo.

Articles on Fire Aviation tagged “747”.
Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “747 air tanker” (some of them before Fire Aviation was created in November, 2012).


Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Joe.

2 thoughts on “747 Supertanker still stored at Marana, but now has engines”

  1. Although Evergreen International Airlines is still listed as owner of N479EV on the FAA registration, that registration expired on 10/31/2014.

  2. Even if someone did buy or put this tanker back into the system, it seems that it would only be on a CWN contract. It’s just to big to maneuver when needed, but could be effective on large open area fires. Just doesn’t seem cost effective for the over all mission. This would be a good aircraft for the government to operate, because they have a endless budget! Just add it to the Trillion $$$ debt, no one will notice.

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