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Last of the Mighty Martin Mars

World’s Largest Flying Boat

Behold the Mighty Martin Mars!

Martin Mars water bomber snuffs the fire

Last of the Mighty Martin Mars

This has been a very busy year for Light Pixie and too long since my last post. There’s a backlog of interesting stories to tell and new photos and a painting to show in the coming weeks. First up is a notable bit of history and technology after seeing the Martin Mars at Airventure 2016, the week-long festival of aviation at the annual EAA Fly-In, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Impressive display

The Martin Mars named Hawaii came to Airventure 2016 from British Columbia in western Canada, put on display here to court a new owner. She’s a wonder of competence in fighting fires. Her crew of four is no less amazing as they must fly into the fire only 150 to 200 feet above it within the heat and smoke. We heard the pilots and navigator discuss their challenges and answer questions about the airplane and its work. We learned that they endure tremendous heat, can hardly breathe at times, must fly precisely in turbulent air and low to no visibility. The ship and her crews are the last of the Mighty Mars!

7,200 gallons of water dumped in 2½ seconds

During Airventure 2016 Hawaii Mars anchored just outside the Seaplane Base in Lake Winnebago immediately east of Oshkosh. At mid-afternoon on its airshow days, the Hawaii Mars taxied to take on 7,200 US gallons (32 tons of lake water) in 22 seconds and flew the short distance to the airshow. Flying at 138 mph low over the runway through a huge smoke screen of fire, it deployed its entire load in 2½ seconds. That’s what you see happening above caught just at the moment of maximum drop. It’s not there one second, then the bay doors open and the flood appears. It’s gone almost before you can click the shutter.

Earlier in the last century Lake Winnebago was a staging area for massive timber harvests. Some saturated logs remain hidden below the surface. Nearing the end of the week, Hawaii Mars was cruising Lake Winnebago and struck a submerged log and couldn’t be repaired in time to complete her final two airshow days. I’m glad to have taken her picture when I did.

End of an era!

Since 2012 Hawaii Mars has helped with California and Mexican wildfires as well as nearer home in vast western Canada timberstands. She can still do the job handily but at $18,000 an hour to lease is too expensive to operate. Since 2012 Hawaii Mars has helped with California and Mexican wildfires as well as nearer home in vast western Canada timberstands. A single drop from the Mars can cover 3 to 4 acres, but there are newer, more efficient water tankers available. Hawaii Mars needs a new job or a berth at the Smithsonian as the last of her kind. Here’s to an era ending!

Why the Martin Mars were built

As World War II approached, flying boats were designed by the Glenn L. Martin Company for US Naval operations in the Pacific intended for use as patrol bombers. As war strategy shifted they ferried crew and transported cargo. Named for five key Pacific island groups (the Marianas, Philippines, Marshall, Caroline, and Hawaii), each carried the last name of Mars. The prototype named Hawaii Mars was destroyed in an accident on Chesapeake Bay in 1945 and, with the end of the war, the Navy reduced its original order for twenty to the five then in production including a replacement for Hawaii.

In early 1949 the Caroline Mars set a new world record by carrying 269 people from San Diego to Alameda, California. The Marshall Mars sunk following an engine fire. The others flew record amounts of naval cargo between San Francisco and Honolulu until 1956 when they appeared obsolete and destined for scrap.

New life as water bombers

A consortium of forest owners in British Columbia came to their rescue and acquired the remaining four Mars along with a huge parts inventory. They were converted to  water bombers with a massive tank in the cargo bay and scoops to upload thirty tons of water in 22 seconds while taxiing. In 1961 the Marianas Mars crashed while fighting a fire and was lost along with her entire crew of four and the next year Carolina Mars was destroyed while anchored in harbor during Typhoon Frieda. The Philippine and the Hawaii Mars were sold to their current owner Coulson Tankers of Sproat Lake near Port Alberni, British Columbia.

The Philippine Mars hasn’t been in service since 2007 and was formally retired in 2012. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is more efficient and economical at the task so Hawaii Mars only occasionally fights a fire and mostly flies the airshow circuit where it’s on display to find a new owner. What an impressive sight to see the deployment of 7,200 gallons of water in 2½ seconds targeted precisely on a fire!

Videos and other details of the Mars at work

There are many videos of the Mars. Choose from a variety at YouTube.

Technical specifications
• Crew: four (with accommodations for a second relief crew)
• Capacity: 133 troops or 84 litter patients with 25 attendants or 32,000 lb (15,000 kg) of payload including up to seven Willys jeeps
• Length: 117 ft 3 in (35.74 m)
• Wingspan: 200 ft 0 in (60.96 m)
• Hull draft: 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)
• Gross weight: 90,000 lb (40,823 kg)
• Max takeoff weight: 165,000 lb (74,843 kg)
• Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone 18-cylinder radial engines, 2,500 hp (1,900 kW) each
• Propellers: 4-bladed Curtiss Electric, 15 ft 2 in (4.62 m) diameter variable-pitch propellers
• Maximum speed: 221 mph (356 km/h; 192 knots)
• Cruise speed: 190 mph (165 knots; 306 km/h)
• Range: 4,948 mi; 7,964 km (4,300 nautical miles)
• Service ceiling: 14,600 ft (4,450 m)
• Drop speed: 138 mph (120 knots; 222 km/h)
• Landing approach speed: 115 mph (100 knots; 185 km/h)
• Touchdown speed: 92 mph (80 knots; 148 km/h)
• Fuel consumption (cruise): 420 US gal (1,600 l; 350 imp gal) per hour
• Fuel consumption (under operations): 780 US gal (3,000 l; 650 imp gal) per hour
• Operations duration (normal): 5 1/2 hours
• Area covered, single drop: 3 to 4 acres (1.2 to 1.6 hectares)
• Drop height: 150 to 200 ft (46 to 61 m)
• Full water tank load: 7,200 US gal (27,000 l; 6,000 imp gal)

Martin Mars at low altitude deploys 7200 gallons in 2 1/2 seconds

Releasing 7200 gallons of water in 2-1/2 seconds



















One final thing. This month’s EAA Sport Aviation magazine is graced by the Martin Mars water drop on its cover and as background for Contents. The two photos by Jim Koepnick are excellent examples of the photographer’s art. I wish they were mine!

Martin Mars by Jim Koepnick Martin Mars by Jim Koepnick