Jeff Hodson/metro vancouver
It was a homecoming of sorts for Wayne Coulson’s Martin Mars water bomber when it arrived in San Diego this fall to battle the wildfires raging in Southern California.
During World War II, the Martin Mars, the largest flying boat to enter production (only Howard Hughes’ one-of-a-kind Spruce Goose was larger), flew a cargo route for the U.S. Navy from San Diego to Hawaii.
"When we landed (in San Diego) there had to be a thousand people on the beach waiting," said Coulson, who owns the two surviving Martin Mars aircraft. Only six were ever built.
"People from all over California had travelled to see the aircraft that their father had been on, their grandfather, their uncle had flown in that airplane."
The water bomber performed superbly helping put out the Southern California wildfires, Coulson said. It flew every mission and got into difficult terrain, silencing critics who were skeptical about the aircraft’s age.
The Hawaii Mars landed in Vancouver Harbour yesterday afternoon, dwarfing other floatplanes in the area.
It’ll be on display during the Truck Loggers’ Association annual convention this week at Canada Place.
In the 1960s the aircraft were sold by the U.S. Navy for scrap.
They were bought and converted from cargo planes into water bombers. For the past 40 years, they have fought fire-fighting missions out of Port Alberni, B.C.