If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be in control of a majestic Martin Mars water bomber, here’s your chance to find out — if you have a spare $US25,000 lying around.
Coulson Flying Tankers is offering a once in a lifetime opportunity to fly the world’s biggest water bomber — a legendary Second World War-era Martin Mars.
“I would say it’s like flying a museum,” says Coulson Flying Tankers owner Wayne Coulson. The course, billed as The Ultimate Flying Experience, runs two days and includes some time on the flight deck of one of the world’s two remaining Martin Mars aircraft.
Several of the planes were built for service during the Second World War, and now Coulson’s base in Port Alberni is home to the last two. He says aviation enthusiasts regularly ask if they can fly them, and now he’s planning to use that enthusiasm to help out his bottom line. “It’s a way to offset some of the costs, because of course they are very expensive to keep airworthy, and we thought this might be the last year.”
Modernization of the fleet is now underway, and Coulson is on the lookout for new homes for the Mars bombers as they approach the end of their service life. “There will never be an aircraft built that will have flown and dropped more water on wildfires over their five-decade history,” he says. “They were the anchor of the BC government firefighting program until released from service.”
Although the province’s contract with Coulson expired three years ago, the planes came out of retirement for a short time last summer as hundreds of fires raged across British Columbia.