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Last Martin Mars in service moves to final resting place

The only Mars aircraft still in service, Hawaii Mars II, is being donated to the BC Aviation Museum. Coulson Aviation, which has used the WWII icon as aerial fire support since 2007, is the only Mars aircraft out of the original seven produced still in service, and is now moving to its final resting place. Coulson Aviation made the announcement in early April, sharing its appreciation for the people working at BCAM who have helped make the final journey its most important mission. "We have let go of the disappointment of having to retire the world's greatest waterbomber and now focus on its amazing aviation history, which dates back to 1945 when it was delivered to the US Navy as the largest aircraft built during the WW2 era," Coulson Aviation said in its statement. According to the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, the Mars aircraft was developed in 1938 by the Glenn L. Martin Company as a long-range ocean patrol flying boat. The prototype launched on Nov. 8, 1941 and after the Pearl Harbor bombing, the Mars aircraft fleet was repurposed from long-range bombers to long-range freighters to support the Hawaiian Islands. Following testing between 1942 and 1943, the Navy approved the aircraft for transportation. Seven were produced, including the prototype, which was later scrapped. The aircraft were used to make trips between California and Hawaii. The planes would take five trips a week between San Francisco, San Diego and Hawaii. The Mars lineup included Hawaii Mars I, which was first flown in July 1945 but it later sank in August in the Chesapeake Bay and was scrapped, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Navy. Philippine Mars was delivered in 1946 and flew with VR-2, serving until 1955 and later becoming a forest fire fighting aircraft, now preparing to be displayed at the National Naval Aviation Museum. Marianas Mars was delivered in 1946 and assigned to VR-2 until 1956. This Mars was also later converted to a forest fire fighting aircraft but crashed on June 23, 1961, into Mount Moriarty near Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, killing the entire crew. Marshall Mars was destroyed on April 5, 1950 by an engine fire, sinking off of Diamond Head in Oahu, Hawaii, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Navy. The four crewmembers survived the crash and the wreckage was discovered in 2004. Hawaii Mars II was delivered in 1946 and served with VR-2 until 1956, the third to go on to become a forest fire fighting aircraft and operating in the British Columbia area. Owned by Coulson Aviation for years, the Hawaii Mars II is the last Mars aircraft in service. The last Mars delivered, Caroline Mars, was delivered in 1948 and also served with VR-2. Caroline Mars also served as a forest fire fighting aircraft after it served with the Navy but was damaged beyond repair during Typhoon Freda in October 1962 in Victoria, Canada. Many of the Mars aircraft were purchased by timber companies on the west coast of BC. Marianas Mars was the first to be converted to a waterbomber in 1961, before the tragic crash. By 1963 both the Hawaii II and Philippine Mars were in service and operated safely for over 50 years. "The purchase of the Hawaii Mars and Philippine Mars in 2007 has been pivotal in our company's history as it was the start of our first fixed-wing air tanker operations in aerial wildfire support," Coulson Aviation said in a statement. The Mars waterbombers were in service in British Columbia from 1960 to 2015, dropping over 50 million gallons each in 55 years. This is more water on fires than any other single firefighting aircraft in history. From WWII icons to champion aerial firefighting water delivery aircraft, the Mars aircraft have successfully served in numerous roles over the years. "It has been an honor for our family to be entrusted with these aircraft and the hope they represent for the public in time of need as we have all been negatively impacted in some way by the devastation of wildfire," Coulson Aviation said in its statement. "We will immediately start preparing the aircraft for its final destination, the BC Aviation Museum in Victoria. We are very appreciative of the wonderful people we are working with at BCAM, who have helped make this final journey of the Hawaii Mars its most important mission."
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