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Iconic B.C. Martin Mars waterbomber put up for sale

Coulson Aviation looks for new home for Hawaii Mars, inactive in firefighting since 2015
The Hawaii Mars sits on Sproat Lake back in 2013. (SONJA DRINKWATER / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

An historic piece of British Columbia’s firefighting history has been put up for sale.

The iconic red-and-white Hawaii Mars waterbomber has been listed for $5 million by Platinum Fighter Sales, an international sales group of vintage aircraft.

“The opportunity to purchase and preserve a unique part of aviation history is now available for the discerning buyer, or donor,” Platinum Fighter Sales advertises on its website.

Although Platinum Fighter Sales is handling the sale of the Hawaii Mars, the aircraft is still owned by Coulson Aviation, based in Port Alberni, B.C.

“Every day we’re getting interest from around the world,” said Wayne Coulson, the CEO of Coulson Aviation.

The Hawaii Mars was one of five Martin Mars aircraft originally conceived as military bombers in the United States during the Second World War. It started service in 1945 as a transport aircraft for the United States Navy.

It was later purchased by a consortium of timber companies in British Columbia and converted to a water bomber to protect the timber lands on Vancouver Island. In 2006, it was sold—along with the Philippine Mars—to Coulson Aviation.

The Hawaii Mars hasn’t taken part in firefighting action since 2015, when the province signed a 30-day agreement to use the aircraft. The contract was not renewed.

READ MORE: Martin Mars waterbombers’ firefighting days are past

“We know now that it’s probably never going to work in our firefighting world again,” said Coulson. “So we’re trying to find a new life for it. We see this as a gem within our community and the province.”

Coulson Aviation previously put the aircraft up for sale in 2016 to “test the market,” said Coulson. He took the plane to the Oshkosh EAA Adventure Show in Wisconsin, simulating “fire attacks” on the Oshkosh Airfield. The plane hit some rocks on Lake Winnebago, causing minor damage that was subsequently repaired.

Since then, Coulson Aviation has continued to maintain the aircraft. In 2020, the company considered taking it to some airshows again to tour potential customers, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to these plans.

“We want to put it out there and see if there’s somebody who can bring some life back to the Hawaii Mars,” said Coulson. “We’re looking to find an individual that will respect and care for the aircraft as much as we and its previous owners have.”

Both the Hawaii Mars and its dark blue twin, the Philippine Mars, are still stationed in the Alberni Valley. The Philippine Mars is no longer air worthy, but Coulson says he is continuing to look for a home for it in a museum.

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Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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