One of two Martin Mars waterbombers owned by Coulson Aviation in Port Alberni has been put up for sale.
“I’ll be sad but excited too to see it go,” said Coulson CEO Wayne Coulson. “We’ve given some guidelines of people we’d entertain to own the aircraft so anyone who wants to turn it into a restaurant is off the list.”
The Hawaii Mars has been listed for $5,000,000 USD on Platinum Fighter Sales in California.
The planes have an impressive history after six massive Martin Mars air tankers were built as transport planes for the U.S. Navy in the 1940s and used for long-haul transport between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland.
But the planes were retired a decade later and put up for auction.
That’s when the B.C. forestry industry came together to purchase and convert four of the planes into firefighting machines that could carry 27,000 litres of water.
Flash forward to 2007 when Wayne Coulson purchased the remaining two, the Hawaii Mars and the Philippine Mars.
“We knew it was an impact aircraft in wildfires so we were excited to get our hands on them,” said Coulson.
The Hawaii Mars saw lots of firefighting action, primarily in the U.S.
Coulson said from the early days of the planes in B.C. the provincial government “just didn’t like them. I don’t know why and I thought that would change after I bought them from MacMillan Bloedel and other forestry companies but they just never got a lot of work here.”
The Philippine Mars was retired in 2012 and the Hawaii Mars had its last fire season in 2015 when it secured a 30-day contract with the B.C. Government.
Platinum Fighter Sales in California says interest in the Hawaii Mars has been through the roof.
“Well, the phone has melted,” said John Rayner the owner of Platinum Fighter Sales. “Social media has gone crazy, we’ve had hundreds of thousands of hits and likes on our website.”
Rayner said just like there’s a collectible car market there’s also a market for collectible planes.
“We hope to find somebody who’s going to care for the airplane, preserve it in the manner it deserves to be cared for and looked after,” Rayner said.
The remaining Mars, the Philippine is not operational. Wayne Coulson is hoping it ends up in a museum as well.