World’s largest flying water bomber coming to EAA AirVenture

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Martin Mars credit: DesertDigitialImages/Thinkstock

OSHKOSH — The world’s largest flying water bomber is making its first trip to Wisconsin. The gigantic “Martin Mars” is the last of its kind, and will be participating at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh this summer.

According to an EAA AirVenture press release, the massive Martin Mars airplane will be parked near the EAA Seaplane Base on Lake Winnebago, just a few miles east of the main fly-in grounds. It will also fly several demonstrations throughout the week during the daily afternoon air shows.

The Martin Mars is the largest flying boat ever flown operationally. The aircraft has a height of 38-feet, a length of 120-feet, and a wingspan of 200-feet (approximately the wingspan of a Boeing 747).

“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. 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,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs who coordinate features and attractions at AirVenture.

An EAA AirVenture press release states the Flying Mars was originally built as a long-range U.S. Navy troop and freight transport to fly between the continental U.S. and Hawaii. The conversion to water bombers let it carry as much as 7,200 gallons of water. That’s enough water to cover four acres of land in a single pass!

When picking up water, the Martin Mars can ingest more than a ton of water per second as it skims across the waterway.

“This is the last flying Mars in the world and the largest warbird ever built,” said Wayne Coulson, chief executive officer of Coulson Flying Tankers. “There isn’t a better aviators’ venue than EAA AirVenture, so it’s an honor to be part of this world-class event. We’re very excited to bring the Hawaii Mars to Oshkosh as we look for new opportunities and host potential clients, as well as showcase this magnificent airplane’s capabilities.”

Since the Martin Mars is a true flying boat, it cannot land on a traditional landing strip at Wittman Regional Airport. It will instead land on Lake Winnebago.

The Experimental Aircraft Association says the annual fly-in convention will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II.

EAA AirVenture in July will feature both American and Japanese aircraft from the World War II-era, a special program with Pearl Harbor veterans and historians and a recreation of the days leading up to Dec. 7, 1941. Part of the commemoration will also include a restored Interstate Cadet aircraft that was in the air for flight training over Oahu, Hawaii when the Japanese attack began.

Details on the exact arrival of the Martin Mars and air show demonstrations will be announced in the future.

EAA AirVenture at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh will be held July 25-31.


  • Ed Watson

    First fire bomber? In ~1960 a Douglas C-133 test aircraft from EAFB doused a fire in the Antelope Valley. The plane had 9 huge water tanks (~900 gallons each) in the fuselage so it could obtain data at both fwd and aft cg with heavy gross weight and light gross weight by pumping the water from fwd tanks to aft tanks then dumping the water in mid test flight to get the light weight points.. A fire was raging in the foothills of the west end of the Valley. The C-133 crew was advised by Eddie tower and dumped the water on the blaze.

  • Pete soverel

    DC-10 tanker dispenses 12,000 gallons of water vs 7200. Mars had the advantage when there is a nearby water source from which it can scoop up water without actually landing and return quickly to the fire site — a big advantage, but it doesn’t pack the biggest load. Maybe they mean dimensionally, the Mars is larger.

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