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The World’s Largest Flying Boat, a 77-Year Old Water Bomber

Hawaii Mars II was built for the US Navy in 1945 as a bomber and has had many uses in its 77-year life span including most recently fighting forest fires. The largest operational flying boat in existence is now up for sale, providing a crown jewel for any aircraft collectors’ collection. 

The historic piece is one of only seven made and is the only one still flying, the airplane’s siblings include Marianas Mars, Philippine Mars, Marshall Mars, Caroline Mars, and Hawaii Mars. While it was built as a bomber it never saw action before WWII ended and instead served as a cargo and troop carrier until they were decommissioned in the 1950s. Soon after, Forest Industries Flying Tankers purchased them and converted them to firefighting water bombers.

Whilst there is no official account of missions this massive plane flew, there are some reports that within the 2009-2015 time frame it discharged between 600 and 700 times on behalf of British Columbia’s Wildfire Service. Based on this rudimentary report, you can extrapolate for a few more decades to only imagine the massive number of operations it flew. 

The plane has been maintained in flying condition and has a price tag of $5 million (doesn’t take into account the few hundred-thousand a year in maintenance) and its specs are below:

  • Its body runs 117 feet long by 13.5 feet wide and it stands 48 feet tall on land 
  • Its wings span 200 feet and provide a total area of 3,686 feet
  • The four propellers are almost 17 feet across, and they’re attached to 2,400-hp Wright R-3350-24WA 18-cylinder radial engines
  • Its top speed is 225 mph and 190-mph cruise speed with a 4,900-mile range
  • It is able to carry 7,200 gallons of water, enough to douse four acres.


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