Evergreen International Airlines, whose aircraft have been a familiar sight in Kent County skies for years, has closed down, possibly affecting plans to expand a civil air terminal adjacent to Dover Air Force Base.
The airline has been used by the government for years as a contract cargo hauler, which included operations at Dover AFB. Over the past two years, commercial aircraft, including Evergreen, have flown 120 missions into the base, moving more than 8,000 tons of cargo.
However, Kent Economic Partnership Director Jim Waddington told Kent County Levy Court commissioners Tuesday night the McMinnville, Ore.-based airline has shut down due a decrease in business and mounting debt.
“A recent development has been that Evergreen Airlines, one of the major commercial carriers that serves Dover AFB has laid off their employees and has announced they’re going out of business,” Waddington said.
“Part of that is due to a reduction in cargo flights and the wind-down in Afghanistan,” he added.
Evergreen was one of at least three contract airlines that landed regularly at Dover AFB; the others include Atlas Air, a cargo and passenger charter airline and Kalitta Charters, which ferries remains of service members from the Charles C. Carson mortuary.
There had been some confusion in the airline industry about Evergreen’s actual status since Nov. 8, when its human resources manager issued a memo stating the company would end all operations at the end of that month.
However, CEO Delford Smith immediately issued a press release saying “rumors that a decision has been made to cease operations at this time are false.”
However, according to Dec. 3 reports in Oregon newspapers, Evergreen has closed its McMinnville dispatch center and parked its fleet of 747 aircraft. The company is said to be heavily in debt and considering bankruptcy proceedings. It recently sold its helicopter division in an effort to raise funds.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Evergreen has 215 full time employees, down from 319 in January 2013.
Kent County officials had been planning a major expansion of the air park in an effort to attract more commercial carriers. Plans included parking areas for 747 and smaller aircraft that would allow overnight stays, thus saving the charters hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Waddington feels that project still will go forward, even with Evergreen out of the picture.
“There’s still an interest in this project, a significant level of interest,” he said. “We’ve had a number of inquiries about the ramp from a number of business segments that could benefit from using the flexible infrastructure at Dover.”
Page 2 of 2 - With a lot of prior obstacles taken care of, to include environment and wetland issues, and with a joint-use agreement under review at the Pentagon, expansion of the civil air terminal could begin at almost any time, he said.
“This really is a shovel-ready project," he said."