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Born of War, Mars Serves Over a Half-Century of Peace
By Frederick A. Johnsen
July 27, 2016 - The huge 200-foot wingspan Martin JRM Mars seaplane looming over AirVenture 2016 is the offspring of a World War II U.S. Navy patrol bomber, the original XPB2M Mars. A shift in Navy preference for land bombers led to a redesign of the capacious Mars into a transport version. Five of the huge seaplanes served the Navy until the last ones were retired in 1956. In 1959, growing interest in the use of aircraft in firefighting led to a bold plan by a group of Canadian forest companies to buy the four remaining Mars seaplanes from the Navy for conversion to water scooping air tankers. Two were lost, one while parked in the face of a typhoon. The remaining two, Philippine Mars and Hawaii Mars, still retaining their Navy names, have served as air tankers ever since.
Based on beautiful Sproat Lake in the middle of Vancouver Island, in recent years Hawaii Mars has occasionally ranged as far as southern California on firefighting contracts. Able to scoop and release more than 7,000 gallons of water, the Mars was the reigning champion air tanker until the advent of super jet tankers converted from DC-10s and 747s.The Hawaii Mars is scheduled to make several demonstration water drops over Wittman Field during AirVenture 2016.