By CARMEN WELD
The historic Martin Mars water bomber was damaged in an emergency landing this past weekend on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin.
Crews of the B.C.-based aircraft noticed an engine problem during a flight at the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture convention on Friday evening.
Crews opted to land the 73,000-kilogram plane on a shallow area of the lake striking something under the surface. The landing punched three small holes in the belly of the plane.
The aircraft was reportedly fully loaded with 27,000 litres of water when it landed.
The Martin Mars – Coulson Flying Tankers team took to Facebook and said crews worked hard to install patches and repair the plane.
“We have many team members from EAA helping us, as they support a B17 Bomber and 3 Ford Tri-Motors and will head down to the lake shortly to install the patch,” read the Facebook post.
As planned, the Second World War plane took off safely Tuesday on its way back to base in Port Alberni.
The Martin Mars flying boats were built in the 1940s for the U.S. Navy and served during the war as long-range patrol craft and transports. It was the largest Allied flying boat to enter production, and only seven were ever built. After the war, the surviving aircraft were converted for civilian use and were operated for decades by a consortium of B.C. forest companies as water bombers.
Now, only two remain – the Philippine Mars and Hawaiian Mars, purchased in 2007 by Coulson Flying Tankers, based out of Port Alberni.
The two Martin Mars owned by Coulson are for sale after the B.C. government opted not to renew its contract. The aircraft were retired from service in 2013, but brought back last summer for the forest-fire season on a $600,000 contract. The province began contracting four smaller Air Tractor AT-802F Fire Boss air tankers in 2014 from Abbotsford-based Conair and says they offer more efficient operation.
Plane enthusiasts were recently invited to fly the plane as part of a new "once-in-a-lifetime" experience, the Ultimate Aviation Experience.