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One of the last surviving examples of world’s largest flying boat will be preserved at a Canadian aviation museum. The British Columbia Aviation Museum near Victoria will take delivery of the massive Martin Mars after its final flight from its current base in Port Alberni about 150 miles northwest. The final flight is expected to occur this coming fall and the plane will be the centerpiece of an aerial firefighting exhibit at the museum. The British Columbia government provided a grant of $250,000 to the museum.

A total of six Mars were built by Martin starting in 1945 and they were originally intended as troop transports. One crashed during testing and another was destroyed by fire but the remaining “Big Four” were used extensively to supply Hawaii and other Pacific Islands until 1956. They were bought as surplus from the U.S. Navy in 1959 by a consortium of B.C. forestry companies and converted to water bombers. One crashed and another was wrecked in a storm but for almost 40 years the remaining two, the Hawaii Mars, which will go to the museum, and Phillipine Mars were used to quench wildfires from B.C. to California. The planes dropped 7,200 gallons of water and could reload by skimming on a lake in 22 seconds. They are powered by 2,400 horsepower Wright R-3350-24WA Cyclone engines with 4-bladed propellers with a 16-foot diameter.

Hawaii Mars last flew in 2016 when it was a star attraction at AirVenture. The plane suffered a punctured hull when it hit the bottom of Lake Winnebago and it had to be kept afloat with pumps until it could be patched and flown to Vancouver Island. Coulson Flying Tankers, which bought the Hawaii and Phillipine aircraft in 2007, had hoped to sell the Hawaii Mars at AirVenture but it has been looking for a buyer ever since. Meanwhile, the Phillipine Mars has been beached for more than 10 years pending a potential deal with the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.

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