The Martin Mars aircraft, the world’s largest flying water bomber, is making its EAA AirVenture debut this week at the 2016 edition of the annual airshow in Oshkosh, Wis. The massive airplane is moored near the EAA Seaplane Base on Lake Winnebago, just a few miles east of the main fly-in grounds. It is also doing several fly-by demonstrations throughout the week during the daily afternoon airshows, as it did yesterday—making a big splash by dumping some 7,000 gallons of water on the runway at Wittman Regional Airport.
“There aren’t many airplanes that have never been to Oshkosh, but this is one of them, so this is both literally and figuratively a huge addition to this year’s lineup,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs, who coordinates features and attractions at AirVenture. “Among flying boats, only the legendary Spruce Goose is bigger, but the Martin Mars is the largest ever to be operational on a regular basis.”
The Martin Mars has a height of 38 feet, length of 120 feet and wingspan of 200 feet, the last of which is about the same as that of the Boeing 747. Only six of them were built, with Coulson Flying Tankers of Port Alberni, British Columbia, owning the two remaining examples since 2007 and using them as water bombers on forest fires throughout the western U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
The Martin Mars was originally built as a long-range U.S. Navy troop and freight transport to fly between the continental U.S. and Hawaii and first flew in 1942. The conversion to water bombers gave the aircraft the ability to carry as much as 7,200 gallons of water, enough to cover four acres of land in a single pass. When picking up water, the Mars can ingest more than a ton of water per second as it skims across a waterway.