The Martin JRM Mars is a large, four-engined cargo transport seaplane originally designed and built in limited numbers for the U.S. Navy during the World War II era. It was the largest Allied flying boat to enter production, although only seven were built.
Named the Marianas Mars, Philippine Mars, Marshall Mars, Caroline Mars, and a second Hawaii Mars, the five production Mars aircraft entered service ferrying cargo to Hawaii and the Pacific Islands on 23 January 1944. The last production airplane (the Caroline Mars) was designated JRM-2, powered by 3,000 hp (2,200 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engines, and featured a higher maximum weight and other improvements. On 4 March 1949, the Caroline Mars set a new world passenger load record by carrying 269 people from San Diego to Alameda, CA. On 5 April 1950, the Marshall Mars was lost near Hawaii when an engine fire consumed the airplane after her crew had evacuated. The remaining "Big Four" flew record amounts of Naval cargo on the San Francisco-Honolulu route efficiently until 1956, when they were beached at NAS Alameda.
In 1959, the remaining Mars aircraft were to be sold for scrap, but a Canadian company, Forest Industries Flying Tankers (FIFT), was formed and bid for the four aircraft and a large spares inventory. The company represented a consortium of British Columbia forest companies, and the bid was accepted and the sale completed in December 1959. The four aircraft were flown to Fairey Aviation at Victoria, British Columbia, for conversion into water bombers.
The Marianas Mars crashed near Northwest Bay, British Columbia, on 23 June 1961 during firefighting operations; all four crew members were lost. Just over a year later, on 12 October 1962 while parked onshore at the Victoria airport, the Caroline Mars was damaged beyond repair by Typhoon Freda when she was blown 200 yards, breaking her back. The Hawaii Mars and Philippine Mars had their conversion into water bombers advanced and entered service in 1963. They appeared at local airshows, demonstrating their water-dropping ability. Flying Tankers Inc. flew the water bombers to hot spots around the province when a need developed, such as in August 2003, when a large forest fire threatened the outskirts of Kelowna, British Columbia.
On 23 August 2012, the Coulson Group announced that the Philippine Mars, due to its lack of use for five years, would be retired and flown to the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida to become a static exhibit. The aircraft was repainted to its original U.S. Navy colors and was to have been delivered to the museum in November 2012. After many delays, the trade deal of transferring the aircraft to the museum was put on hold by the navy in June 2016.
On 10 May 2013, the B.C. provincial government announced that the Hawaii Mars would no longer be placed on contract after the 2013 season, due to not having been used to fight any B.C. fires for two years and the operation of newer and more versatile aircraft by the Coulson group including a Lockheed C-130 Hercules converted to firefighting use.