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The world’s largest air boats

Red and white float plane lands in water. Hillside in background.

Photographed in the Salmon Arm Bay of Shuswap Lake, the Philippine Mars C-FLYK air tanker carried over 27,000 litres of water.

The community of Salmon Arm applauded when the Philippine  Martin Mars C-FLYK air tanker was called into service for the Silver Creek Fire. The massive air boat was a reassuring sight. Its pilot made an impressive 16 drops on July 30th and returned to base at Sproat Lake near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. When the fire took a turn for the worse, the Philippine was called back into service on August 4th and worked every day until August 15th.

In the interim, sister aeroplane C-FLYL, the Hawaii  Martin Mars, was called into service on August 3rd and its crew also worked every day until August 15th.

To the inexperienced eye, the two planes were virtually indistinguishable. The difference was small, but one to look for. The Philippine Mars had a white tail. The Hawaii Mars had a red tail. With a wingspan of over 60 metres, they held the record as the world’s largest flying boats, dispersing an impressive 30,000 litres of water with each drop.

The aeroplanes were built between 1945 and 1958 and flew commercially between the California Coast and Hawaiian Islands. They were converted into air tankers in 1960 and fought wildfires in Canada and the U.S.A. for over fifty years.

Of the five Mars aeroplanes originally built, only the Philippine and Hawaii remained in commercial service in 1998.

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Photo credit:
James Murray, Salmon Arm Observer, c.1998