The last airworthy Martin Mars flying boat, the Hawaii Mars, is reportedly headed to the British Columbia Aviation Museum located on the grounds of Victoria International Airport in Sidney.
“It would be one big jewel — make that a boulder — in our crown at the B.C. Aviation Museum,” the museum’s president Steve Nichol said. “But it will be a monumental project just to get it here.”
Initially bound for the scrap heap, a consortium of B.C. forestry companies purchased four of the flying boats for conversion into water bombers in the 1950s. Designed by the Glenn L. Martin Company of California for the US Navy, only seven were ever built. They were used to patrol the oceans and as long-distant transport aircraft during the Second World War. Post-war, they served as cargo aircraft between San Francisco and Honolulu until 1956.
In service fighting forest fires, one of the four aircraft was lost while water-bombing near Nanaimo, B.C. and another was damaged beyond repair during a storm.
In 2007 Coulson Aerial Tankers of nearby Port Alberni purchased the remaining two Mars, the Philippine Mars and the Hawaii Mars. The former was retired in 2012 and the latter in 2015 after its last water-bombing mission. Since then, the Mars has been moored in Sproat Lake, just north of Port Alberni.
With a wingspan of 200 feet and a fuselage length of 120 feet, the Mars, the largest warbird in the world, can carry over 6,000 gallons of water.