Coulson Flying Tankers’ mighty Martin Mars, the world’s largest flying water bomber, is to make its first trip to Wisconsin to participate in EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016. The event, the 64th annual Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in convention, will be held between July 25-31 at Wittman Regional Airport, Oshkosh.
During the event, the aircraft will be moored near the EAA Seaplane Base on Lake Winnebago, a few miles east of the main EAA fly-in area. It will fly several demonstrations throughout the week during the daily afternoon air shows. Coulson will also be hosting potential clients during the event and looking for new opportunities for the aircraft, which currently do not have any fire-fighting contracts.
One interesting contract fulfilled last July and August with the Mars was training of Chinese aircrew who will flight-test the country’s new AVIC TA-600 large amphibious flying boat, currently under construction. A Seaplane Flight Test and Certification Course under sub-contract to the International Test Pilots School provided 22 hours of flight training on the Mars for the Chinese personnel. The TA-600 will be capable of dropping 12 tonnes of water for aerial fire-fighting and carrying 50 passengers when used in the search and rescue role.
The Hawaii Mars that will appear at Oshkosh is one of two owned by Coulson and based on Sproat Lake, near Port Alberni, British Columbia, but is the only one that is still operational. The other, Philippine Mars, has not flown for several years. The type first flew in 1942 and was originally built as a long-range US Navy troop and freight transport aircraft. Coulson’s examples are the only survivors of just six that were built. Since being purchased, significant upgrades have been incorporated on Hawaii Mars to bring it in line with modern day safety standards for fire-fighting. These include an EFIS glass cockpit and the ability to stream live data from certain key, on-board indication systems.
Conversion to water bombers gave the aircraft the capacity to carry 7,200 gallons of water, enough to cover four acres of land in a single drop. Skimming across a waterway, the Mars can ingest more than a ton of water per second. Since being acquired by Coulson in 2007, they have been used to fight forest fires throughout Canada, Mexico and the western United States. Alan Warnes