Pima Air and Space Museum Acquires Iconic Philippine Mars

Announcement follows news sister ship Hawaii Mars headed for preservation in Canada

Philippine Mars entering the waters at Sproat Lake for a photo-op with her sister ship, Hawaii Mars. [Photo by Rob Frolic]

Following the announcement in March by the British Columbia Aviation Museum that it had acquired Martin JRM Hawaii Mars today, with much surprise, the Pima Air and Space Museum (PASM) made public via Facebook its acquisition of the Philippine Mars.

Coulson Aviation published a press release announcing that the Philippine Mars will soon find its “forever home” at the PASM in Tucson, Arizona this year. The Philippine Mars is one of only seven Martin JRM Mars flying boats produced.

Philippine Mars rolling down the flying boat ramp at Sproat Lake. [Photo by Rob Frolic]

“This has been an exciting month for both Martin Mars waterbombers,” said Wayne Coulson, CEO of Coulson Group. “As a fitting tribute to their years of service and years of hard work by many people in BC and the U.S., we are pleased to see both Mars aircraft landing to rest at world-class institutions in 2024.”

Produced between 1942 and 1947, the Mars fleet flew cargo between Hawaii and the Pacific Islands to support the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, they supported the Korean War with medical air transport lifts between Hawaii and California, later transitioning to cargo lift work between Hawaii and California before being decommissioned in 1956.

The impressive planes were each christened with proper names, perhaps as a nod to their nautical roots. The prototype plane was named The Old Lady; production planes were named as follows: Hawaii Mars, Philippine Mars, Marianas Mars, Marshall Mars, Hawaii Mars II (named after the destruction of the original Hawaii Mars), and finally, Caroline Mars.

Four Martin JRM-3 Mars flying boats in formation. In the foreground is Philippine Mars, Bu. No. 76820. The second airplane is Marianas Mars, Bu. No. 76821. (U.S. Navy)

The surviving fleet of four aircraft were sold in 1958 to a consortium of timber companies in British Columbia, Canada, and converted into the world’s largest waterbombers carrying 7,200 U.S. gallons per drop. Coulson purchased two of the aircraft, the Hawaii Mars and the Philippine Mars in 2007, which marked the beginning of the company’s fixed-wing air tanker operations for aerial wildfire support.

Hawaii Mars and Philippine Mars at Sproat Lake, 2014.

Hawaii Mars and Philippine Mars are the only Martin JRM Mars aircraft remaining today.

“We are pleased to have the Philippine Mars join our museum where we will preserve this World War II-era aircraft for decades to come,” said Scott Marchand, CEO of the PASM.

According to the museum’s Facebook post, the Philippine Mars won’t arrive until later this year, but we are thrilled to see that both remaining iconic Martin JRM Mars aircrat will be preserved!



  1. Too bad the us museum of naval aviation wasn’t able get their deal to work. That’s where it really should have gone

  2. Wonderful news. Congrats to PASM for seeing the historical value of this great plane and it’s contribution in history. I am curious, fly it here to DMAFB or truck it here?

  3. Having spent 13 months at Davis-Monthan AFB (Tucson) during the Vietnam War, I’m especially happy to see the PASM receiving this aircraft.

  4. As a 4 year old I flew on one of these from Hawaii to San Diego when my father was transferred from Pearl back to the states in 1950. I have memories of a big dark airplane on the water.

  5. It is wonderful to read that finally both airframes have found a permanent home to be preserved as legacies. Congrats to all parties involved.

  6. I have seen Hawaii mars fly many times in the roll of forest fire fighting. A beautiful sight to see on Sprout Lake too in her red paint. This I’d say is the best outcome for such an iconic aircraft.

  7. Really glad that both MM have found new homes.Many years ago I flew from Boundry Bay to Sproat Lake in a Lake La4 we landed next to these beautiful aircraft.The show at EAA Oshkosh a few years ago was spectacular.Both are one of my many highlights of 50 years in aviation. Looks like another trip to the USA and Canada in the near future.

    • Weighing up the value of the wonderful spectacle flying one of these iconic aircraft once more with the risks of loss, my feeling is that the aircraft should stay on the ground. I understand that there are only two left of these great Martin flying boats.

  8. Growing up on the west coast of Vancouver Island Canada. The Mars water bombers were a common sight. Such a spectacular plane. I had the privilege of watching 2 separate water drops absolutely amazing.

  9. How do I get a full size photo of a PBY that my dad was Plane Captain on during his tour of duty in South America chasing German UBoats. I want to set up a wall in rememberance of hid duty. I severed in Nam and during the Cold War. Thank you Steve
    USN AT2
    Good bless those WW II GUYS will never be forgotten
    PS one of my Uncles(Wally) survived Pearl and one(Mark) served in Patton’s Army

  10. My dad was in the Navy stationed at Aiea Naval Hospital when our family was transferred back to the mainland. I was only 10 mos old n remember nothing… damn…but do have a pic of the fam covered in leis as we boarded the Hawaii Mars. Water takeoff n water landing in SF Bay, tying up at Treasure Island

  11. Sometime around 1996 a forest fire in Kern County California at lake Isabella was out of control and I believe the Hawaii mars was used.
    Watching that plane take off from the lake and pick up water was a sight to see. The whole valley rumbled after it was loaded with water and it had to gain quite a bit of altitude to get out of the kern river valley. No cell phone then or I would have video of that massive awesome plane!

  12. Let’s see – getting a very large flying boat to Tucson ,where the nearest large lake is 150 miles northeast. Or do they hope to land on its beaching gear on the 12,000 foot single runway at The air Force Base (Davis-Monthan AFB)? The aircraft is huge , so even disassembling it for road travel is going to be a problem for the small size of the road road leading to PASM . The last large aircraft (the B-36J) came in several very large chunks .

  13. I drove all night to see the Hawaii Mars at AirVenture 2016. I’d bought a ticket to tour the old girl, but inbound, she put a hole in the hull due to low water level at Lake Winnebago, hitting a rock or tree stump. That and low oil pressure on #4 meant I didn’t get to see or hear her fly, but myself and a CAP cadet flight got to climb all over her.
    Mark Carlson: Word I heard was thar Coulson wanted to trade the museum PHILLIPINE MARS for a C-130, even repainting her in Navy colors, but after losing the wing off a -130 in Australia in 2020 on a fire fighting mission, may have changed their plans?
    Ryan: Not true. Four Mars seaplanes survived service shortly past the Korean War. Navy was anxious to move to Convair’s R3Y turboprop Tradewinds, so the four Mars and tons of spare parts were auctioned off. One Mars was lost to a typhoon, one cartwheeled into the side of a mountain, two survive. I don’t have an inventory of Pima handy, maybe you’re thinking of the four engine Consolidated PB2Y Coronado, smaller than the Mars?
    David Jelle: Not sure either are any longer airworthy. Got 144 spark plugs for a tuneup?
    Steven Gojanovich: All you have to do is look. https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=consolidated+catalina+flying+boat&form=HDRSC3&first=1 Your dad’s boat may still be flying in Central or South America, or if you want to get qualified and follow in his foot steps –
    Glen: If you like the Martin Mars, check out Martin’s P6M Seamaster:
    Good video for what most of us have missed:

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