Guided tours of Mars flying boat offered on Vancouver Island
July 28, 2008, Port Alberni, B.C. - The Martin Mars aircraft were originally conceived as U.S. military bombers for long-range missions. Now they're being used in British Columbia as bombers of a different sort - dropping water on forest fires.
July 28, 2008, Port Alberni, B.C. – The Martin Mars aircraft were originally conceived as U.S. military bombers for long-range missions. Now they're being used in British Columbia as bombers of a different sort – dropping water on forest fires.
Coulson Flying Tankers operates two of the massive flying boats that were purchased from the U.S. navy more than 45 years ago.
Their main base of operations is on Sproat Lake near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.
"A steady stream of aircraft buffs, tourists and the curious from around the world visit the facility to see the Mars, fill their photo and video albums, purchase Mars memorabilia and enjoy the surroundings,'' the company says.
Coulson Flying Tankers is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. until Sept. 1.
This year for the first time the company is offering guided tours on one of the aircraft, the Philippine Mars. The cost is $10.
The other plane, Hawaii Mars, is under contract with the B.C. Forest Service until September and may be called away any time.
Two other Mars aircraft were destroyed – one in 1961 while on firefighting operations, another the following year by a hurricane.
A visitors centre presents video documentaries and a photo gallery illustrating the history of the Martin Mars aircraft. There is also a gift shop.
The planes, with a 61-metre wingspan and a 27,250-litre payload, are described as "the world's largest flying boats ever flown operationally.''
The two aircraft "have operated on hundreds of fires, saving untold thousands of acres of valuable forest lands, delivering foam or water exactly where and when it is needed,'' the company says.