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The airline was established by Delford Smith (founder and owner) and began operations in 1960 as Evergreen Helicopters. It acquired the operating certificate of Johnson Flying Service and merged it with Intermountain Airlines from Pacific Corporation (a CIA front company) in 1975 to form Evergreen International Airlines. The holding company, Evergreen International Aviation, formed in 1979, wholly owns the airline
The company provided aviation services for the Central Intelligence Agency as well, including transporting the Shah of Iran from Panama to the United States in 1980.