A Success Story – The Martin Mars & Coulson Aviation

The Coulson team received many inquiries about the Martin Mars because people across Canada have been negatively affected by wildfires early this fire season.

Our time with the Martin Mars has been an incredible experience.

As a family-owned company, we were blessed to acquire these aircraft along with some very talented aviators in 2007 from Timberwest and its subsidiary, Forest Industrial Flying Tankers (FIFT). When we took ownership of both the Hawaii and Philippine Mars, they were in pristine condition.

A Brief History

Initially constructed in the 1940s, the Martin Mars was the largest aircraft built by the US Government during World War II. The United States Navy operated the airplanes between California and the Hawaiian islands for 13 years in support of military operations in the South Pacific. After the war, FIFT purchased and converted the Mars airframe to water bombers in 1960, operating as aerial firefighting aircraft for 47 years in British Columbia – FIFT was nothing less than a visionary world-class aviation organization.

The Martin Mars was the largest water bomber in the world until 2006, operating for decades as a pair. During an aerial fire operation, a collective total of 14,400 USG (55,000 liters) of water would drop as an initial attack strategy to tame a forest fire.


Our Humble Opinion

The timber companies back in the 1960s had it right – they had the vision to hit a forest fire with as much speed and volume as possible via an initial attack. We still utilize this same vision 63 years later.


Coulson’s Current Fleet

Owning and operating these aircraft has taught our team much about firefighting tanking systems, flow rates (how fast the water flows from the tank), drop heights and drop speeds, and large volumes.

Taking our lessons learned from the Mars around volume performance, we incorporated new technology within these same parameters for our C-130 Hercules and Boeing 737s aircraft platforms and created a 4,000 USG tanking system.

Today, the Coulson fleet is comprised of the largest volume of Large Air Tankers (LATS) worldwide.

Coulson also converted the largest helicopter in the Western world, the CH-47 Chinook, and installed a smaller version of our tank that holds up to 3,000 USG. Our CH-47 fleet – collectively known as our Quick Reaction Force – consists of three CH 47s that operate 24/7, 365 in the Los Angeles basin, Ventura, Los Angeles, and Orange County and has exceeded expectations through our combination of incorporated speed, technology, night operations, and volume.

We have seen the world wildfire marketplace change rapidly over the last few years, with countries like Australia, Chile, Argentina, and South Korea following in the footsteps of the United States, using Large Air Tankers and Helitankers as the backbone of an initial attack strategy to tame wildfires.


To Sum it Up

The Martin Mars performance spanned 47 years, with very few days over the course of its history of initial attacks flying more than two days in a row. We want to continue to share the success of the Martin Mars. The Coulson organization is working with a local museum to have this iconic aircraft proudly displayed in British Columbia.

Coulson Aviation Currently Deploys the World’s Most Technologically Advanced Aerial Firefighting Fleet

“It’s a war. California turns to new, high-tech helicopters to battle wildfires.”  – CBS NEWS

Coulson Group

4890 Cherry Creek Road
Port Alberni, B.C.
Canada V9Y 8E9

T: (250) 724-7600
F: (250) 723-7766

E: info{at}coulsongroup.com

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