by Michael W.
While visiting a supplier in Vancouver, British Columbia, I found out that I was a few miles from Sproat Lake. Anchored on this lake are two Martin Mars flying boats. These aircraft were built in the 1940s at the Middle River, Maryland, aircraft factory.
These have been converted to water bombers and are used to fight forest fires. After a brief tour of the base, I stayed to witness the water drop test that they do to maintain the aircraft to be ready to fight forest fires.
The huge aircraft taxied across the lake and took flight in minutes. The pilot then descended and skimmed across the lake at about 180 miles per hour. Two six-inch tubes extending from the bottom of the fuselage collected over 7,000 gallons of water in 25 seconds, stored in the internal tanks. The aircraft then disappeared into the sky. After about three minutes, it reappeared and flew over the dock that we were standing on. As though we were the intended target, it flew over us at an altitude of about 500 feet when it released the 7,000 gallons of water for a “test drop.” The crew had obviously done this before for onlookers, as the water missed us by about 200 feet and plummeted back into the lake. Even though the aircraft are now 66 years old, the “Hawaii” and “Philippine” Mars are still being used today and are ready to fight forest fires in a minute’s notice.