Coulson’s Martin Mars Finds New Home With BC Aviation Museum

After several years of hard work, the British Columbia Aviation Museum announced yesterday via Facebook that it had secured the Coulson Aviation Martin Mars to exhibit at the Museum, which is based in Canada.

The iconic “Hawaii” Martin Mars aircraft, one of two once owned and operated on fires by Port Alberni-based Coulson Aviation. The museum has worked hard over the last several years, posting regularly on social media about the potential for the aircraft to move from Coulson to the museum to preserve the history of the fire bomber, which was once capable of carrying 7200 gallons of water or fire retardant.

The Glenn L. Martin Company manufactured the Mars aircraft as a scaled-up version of the PBM Mariner patrol bomber design that morphed into the XPB2M-1 Mars. The XPB2M-1 was announced on 8 November 1941, first flying on 23 June 1942. Originally put into service with the Navy as a patrol bomber concept, that was quickly rendered obsolete, leading to the Mars being converted into a transport aircraft designated the XPB2M-1R.

The Caroline Mars was one of five aircraft built out of an original order of 20 aircraft from the US Navy. Navy Archives photo.

The Navy ordered 20 of the modified JRM-1 Mars, later revising the order down to five aircraft. In 1959, the remaining Mars aircraft were to be sold for scrap, but a Canadian company, Forest Industries Flying Tankers (FIFT), was formed and bid for the four aircraft and a large spares inventory. The company represented a consortium of British Columbia forest companies, and the bid was accepted, and the sale was completed in December 1959. The four aircraft were flown to Fairey Aviation at Victoria, British Columbia, for conversion into water bombers. 

The Hawaii Mars and Philippine Mars were converted in 1963. They appeared at local airshows, demonstrating their water-dropping ability, and were used as fire bombers during the Canadian fire seasons throughout the 2000s.

On April 13th, 2007, TimberWest announced the sale of both aircraft to Coulson Forest Products, which would later become Coulson Aviation. Coulson Aviation is a large-scale supplier of aerial firefighting aircraft worldwide. It operated the aircraft until their final use in the United States on the LaBrea Fire in 2013 when they were returned to Sprout Lake in Port Alberni. The Mars had seen some sporadic use as a trainer in 2015 before being put up for sale while Coulson continued to maintain that and the Phillipine Mars aircraft. The Hawaii Mars also appeared at the 2016 EAA Air Venture show in Wisconsin in hopes of marketing the aircraft for potential sale; however, the sale of the aircraft did not eventuate, leading to the donation of the aircraft this month to the BC Aviation Museum.


AerialFire Staff
AerialFire Staff
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