Is this the end for the Martin Mars?

Readers may be familiar with the Martin Mars, the largest flying-boats ever built in the USA.  The prototype first flew in 1942.  Only seven were produced, the last of which is still flying as a water-bomber in Canada.

Now comes news that its days may be numbered.

Nearly a dozen jobs are on the line at The Coulson Group of Companies aviation division after news that the provincial government has cancelled a direct award contract for the Martin Mars waterbomber.

Coulson’s flying tankers unit employs up to 20 people during the height of fire season.

Wayne Coulson bought both Martin Mars waterbombers—the Hawaii Mars and the Philippine Mars—from TimberWest in 2007. He has had a direct award contract since 2007 and has worked on more than 20 fires across B.C. since then.

The Martin Mars has also fought fires in California and Mexico.

. . .

Coulson said he’s … looking at his options, which would include selling the Hawaii Mars if someone made an attractive offer.

“We sent out e-mails on the weekend, to some of the Red Bull folks and Virgin Air folks to see if there’s any interest. We may advertise it for a time to see if we get some interest.

“Whether we operate it for them or look at selling it, or if everything fails it will be time to retire it,” he said.

“The worst thing you can do with an aircraft is let it sit.”

There’s more at the link.

It’ll be a sad day if this ‘gentle giant’ is no longer to be airborne.  It’s the last survivor of its kind in airworthy condition, using the same engines that powered the B-29 Superfortress and other giants.  There’s a lot of history in that airframe.



  1. The Mars was a regular visitor to Hawaii. As a child I saw it flying off Keehi Lagoon using one of the dredged deep water channels alongside the Honolulu international airport. It provided weekly service for Navy personnel and families.
    Very impressive airplane.

  2. My father was a Plane3 Commander on the Mars out of Alameda in the fifties. He was a Naval Aviator. He and the other Navy pilots called themselves 'Nasal Radiators'.

    He flew PBY's during WWII in the Gulf of Mexico. He told of 25 hour 'hops' in them and maintained that the Navy ruined the PBY when it put retractable landing gear on it. He said the 5A version had lost its useful load.

    He trained pilots in Pensacola in the early fifties and was transferred to Alameda in '54. There he flew the Mars to Hawaii regularly.

    He took me on a tour of one. You could walk inside the wings and service the engine – albeit slightly hunched over. They carried passengers on three levels.

    In about '56 or '57 the Navy scrapped the Mars' and replaced them with the ill-fated R3Y. Turboprop engines with contra-rotating propellers.

    Then the Navy got out of the seaplane business.

    If you can find a copy of it the TV program Navy Log did an episode about the Mars. It was called 'Men From Mars'.

  3. Hey Old Surfer, I was 1 of those Navy families that flew from Alameda to Barbers Point in '55. My dad was a load master on those. I remember him lifting me up (I was 5) & looking at the moonlight on the wings & seeing that big tail thru the Navigator's dome behind the cockpit. Got to see it again at Lake Elsinore in Oct 2007 & met Wayne Coulson.


  4. In 1955 I was an AD3, got transferred from Whidbey Is to VR-7, Hickam AFB..rode the Mars from Alameda to Barbers Pt. Never forget it….Bill

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