Martin Mars Movements – The Ultimate Flying Experience!
by Richard Mallory Allnutt
The last remaining Martin JRM Mars flying boats may be approaching the end of their operational days, but Coulson Aviation who owns the two behemoths in Port Alberni, British Columbia, is offering a unique opportunity for members of the public to receive training and fly one of the aircraft. Dubbed the Ultimate Flying Experience, active pilots with $25,000 burning a hole in their pockets will go through a two day course which culminates in their sitting behind the controls of the Mars during a one hour flight. The program currently has a lot of interest, although exclusively so far from those with extensive seasoning flying large aircraft such as the Boeing 747. The flights will all be in the aircraft known as Hawaii Mars, which is still fitted as an aerial fire fighter and currently the only Mars flying, although Philippine Mars is well on her way back to airworthiness. Coulson expects to run one Ultimate Flying Experience session for four people in the week before Hawaii Mars flies to Oshkosh to take part in EAA AirVenture 2016 in late July. They will probably hold at least one further session upon her return.
Well known and prolific warbird collector, Kermit Weeks, is currently at Coulson Aviation’s base at Sproat Lake in Port Alberni getting acquainted with Hawaii Mars as he will be part of the flight crew that takes her to Oshkosh. Weeks has long expressed an interest in acquiring a Mars for his museum in Polk City, Florida, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds in the coming months.
Meanwhile, the longtime earth-bound Philippine Mars was set to be traded to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, but that deal has apparently been put on hold by the US Navy for at least a year due to uncertainties over what will happen following the American Presidential election this November. Coulson Aviation has expressed considerable frustration with this situation as they have been working on this effort for the past five years and expended considerable resources in bringing Philippine Mars back into flying condition, not to mention repainting the massive aircraft into its former military colors. They have stated publicly that if a better opportunity arises with another party in the near term, they may opt to make that choice and back out of the Navy deal. Time will tell, but the Ultimate Flying Experience program and taking the Hawaii Mars to Oshkosh are part of a campaign to drive up interest in Philippine Mars and may indeed see a different owner taking the prize home. WarbirdsNews will bring our readers further details as they arise.
Many thanks to Rob Frolic for allowing us to use his beautiful images taken for us just yesterday!