The Spruce Goose and Evergreen International's sad story

The big green plane at San Diego's Jimsair

When Evergreen bought the 218-foot-long Hughes Flying Boat, the plane was dismantled.
  • When Evergreen bought the 218-foot-long Hughes Flying Boat, the plane was dismantled.
  • Image by Rick Geary

Matthew Alice: There’s a big green jetliner, #N940F, parked near Jimsair (Pacific Highway and Palm) on the east edge of Lindbergh Field. Rumors are circulating. It apparently belongs to Evergreen International. This is the firm in McMinnville, Oregon, that purchased the Spruce Goose and supposedly took it north. If so, is it on display where the public can see it? What’s become of the Goose? Evergreen has in the past worked on (secret?) projects for the U.S. government. For the CIA, one rumor has Jimsair personnel say the big green plane sometimes leaves. Could you clear up this mystery — if there is one? — Downtown Sam, downtown

That’s an affirmative on Evergreen. They own the jet. The CIA rumors stem from accusations that the company, once a CIA contractor, participated in a baroque fraud to obtain planes by siphoning them from an intragovernment exchange involving the Air Force, Navy, CIA, Postal Service, and the Forest Service. (A former Evergreen board member was once chief of CIA air operations.) The investigations and lawsuits have been going on since the 1980s.

Those shenanigans aside, Evergreen’s up to its ailerons in financial troubles at the moment. The international freight line at one point snagged exclusive rights to the China market; but when the old P&L statement went sour, they sold those off to FedEx. Evergreen prez Del Smith’s son was in charge of the company’s Spruce Goose doings. He’s claimed — absolutely, definitely, no doubt about it — there will be a public Goose museum. Sometime. Eventually. Sooner or later. Trust them. When Evergreen bought the 218-foot-long, 300,000-pound HK-1 Hughes Flying Boat, the plane was dismantled and the parts shrink-wrapped and shipped by barge and truck to McMinnville. It’s still in pieces in a warehouse outside of town while Evergreen fries bigger and more pressing financial fish. Their China freight routes were worth a yen or two, but the Goose is a white elephant. So Evergreen’s likely stuck with it, and we’ll just have to trust that their dedication to flight history is as sincere as their dedication to the bottom line.

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