Wings Magazine

B.C. waterbomber vandalized

Aug. 9, 2012, Port Alberni, B.C. - An act of vandalism on the Hawaii Mars water bomber had near tragic consequences after a flight crew took off without noticing the damage on the weekend.

August 9, 2012  By Carey Fredericks

According to Coulson Group of Companies
owner Wayne Coulson, the incident happened late Saturday night as the
aircraft was moored in front of the flying tanker base at Sproat Lake.
The vandalism caused $25,000 worth of damage.

“Some people climbed up on
the fuselage and walked along the wing then tried to walk to the tail,”
Coulson said. “They got onto the rear horizontal stabilizer and their
foot went through the skin fabric.”


A neighbour who lives near the base
reported the incident to Coulson personnel who rushed to the base, but
the people had already left.

The base is equipped with a security camera but it was too dark to make anything out on it, he said.

The tanker was set to
respond to a fire on Bowen Island on Sunday afternoon. Staff combed
through a preflight checklist but missed the hole on the stabilizer.
“When they (vandal) pulled their foot back through the hole the skin was
pulled back into place,” Coulson said.

The tanker flew enroute to
Bowen but were stood down after the fire was brought under control. The
crew noticed the aircraft was handling differently but didn't discover
the damage until after they landed.

If the flight had gone
longer or the tanker scooped its payload of 27, 200 litres of water the
incident could have been tragic, Coulson said.

“They (pilots) would have
lost control of the plane and if they had water then it would have been
really bad,” he said. “The torque per square inch when it has a load is

It wasn't just the plane's
crew that was put at risk. The aircraft was grounded on the hottest day
of summer and could not respond if a local fire broke out, Coulson said.
The Hawaii's sister tanker, the Philippine Mars, is in dry dock and not

The incident involving
someone climbing onto the tanker is the second in six weeks, something
that disappoints Coulson.

“We've brought it all over the US and to
Mexico and it's never been vandalized,” he said.

The base now has
round-the-clock security and Coulson is offering a $5,000 reward for
information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for the

“I suspect it was somebody who was visiting the Valley and not a local,” Coulson said.

No suspects have been identified and the investigation into the incident is ongoing, RCMP Staff Sgt. Dave Paddock said.

Anyone with any information about the vandalism can call Port Alberni RCMP at (250) 723-2424 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.


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