Airborne Awesomosity

Flying Boats – When Mars Doesn’t Involve NASA

Martin Mars Flying Boat

Martin Mars Flying Boat


The Mars may have been built in small numbers but it was a success on several levels.




Martin Mars Prototype. Note The Double Tail Only Used On The Prototype

Martin Mars Prototype. Note The Double Tail Only Used On The Prototype


Built during the second world war the Martin Mars would be the largest flying boat placed into production for the US Navy. There were larger flying boats during the war such as the Spruce Goose but none would go on to have the history of the Martin Mars.

The Navy would lose three of the production run in crashes during its military service. It wasn’t the fault of the design. It was a direct result of how hard these aircraft were used during war time. Even with these losses the surviving hulls would continue to make their flights delivering cargo, troops and supplies to the Pacific.


Martin Mars Water Bombers

Martin Mars Water Bombers


The four surviving Mars were converted to water bombers after 1959. They would go on to serve in this capacity until 2013 when the Mars will land for the last time as an operational aircraft. As a water bomber the Mars is capable of dropping 7200 gallons of water on an area equivalent to four acres and only needs 22 seconds coming over a lake to reload.  Between 1959 and 2012 two more would crash and would leave the final two serving its last operator Coulson Fire Tankers whose promotional video I have attached below. As of June 2013 the last two Martin Mars are heading to museums for a well deserved retirement.

Data from Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II

General characteristics

  • Crew: four (with accommodations for a second relief crew)
  • Capacity: 133 troops, or 84 litter patients and 25 attendants
  • Payload: 32,000 lb (15,000 kg) of cargo, including up to seven jeeps
  • Length: 117 ft 3 in (35.74 m)
  • Wingspan: 200 ft 0 in (60.96 m)
  • Height: 38 ft 5 in (11.71 m)
  • Wing area: 3,686 ft² (342.4 m²)
  • Empty weight: 75,573 lb (34,279 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 90,000 lb (40,820 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 165,000 lb (74,800 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-3350-24WA Duplex Cyclone 18-cylinder radial engines, 2,500 hp (1,900 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 192 knots (221 mph, 356 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 165 knots (190 mph, 305 km/h)
  • Range: 4,300 nautical miles (5,000 mi, 8,000 km)
  • Service ceiling: 14,600 ft (4,450 m)





It is rare that you can call an aircraft run of only seven a success. The Martin Mars proved more valuable as a water bomber than it ever did in its original military role. Thankfully the two survivors are on their way to retirement. They should be applauding for being used hard and being put away wet.



  • thomasmac

    Imagine the logistically nightmare ferrying the Mars from Bristish Columbia to the National Navy Aviation Museum in Pensacola Florida later this year! There was a great episode of Mighty Planes on Discovery that featured the Martin Mars, what a workhorse.

  • Beefpile

    I was fortunate enough to see a Martin Mars in action and up close. I'll have to dig up some of the pictures I took of it. It was a remarkable plane, I'm glad they are going to a museum, but it's a sad day to not see them in service

  • Number_Six

    Vehicles I have nearly pranged in BC over the years because of a Mars flying over and me going into full gawk mode:
    2000 Ford Taurus wagon
    2000 Honda CBR600
    1999 Suzuki TL1000S
    2001 Suzuki TL1000R
    2001 BMW F650GS
    2009 Nissan Versa

  • Will Campbell

    Only one Mars is going to the NAM in Pensacola, the other will remain in use. I think its the Philippine Mars that is going east, the Hawaii Mars will continue to operate with Colson. I really would like to see one fly some day. The Philippine Mars has been out of the water for several years after it was the victim of some vandalism that damaged one of the elevators and rudder I think.

    • fodder650

      The second Mars is being taken out of service by Coulson. They have replaced both Mars with more capable C-130's. The news of the second one being retired is very new though.

  • skitter

    This one is my favorite in the series so far. The last picture got a tiny, Deartháirly squee.

    • fodder650

      Thank you.

  • Will Campbell

    This is a good thread that is sort of up to date on the two remaining Mars flying boats.