Navy Flying Boat Headed To Arizona Museum


One of the world’s largest flying boats is being retired—to the desert. The Philippine Mars, one of two remaining Martin Mars Second World War Navy transports, has been acquired by the Pima Air and Space Museum near Tucson. The aircraft is owned by the Coulson Group in Port Alberni, British Columbia, and spent decades fighting wildfires up and down the west coast of North America. An earlier deal to send the aircraft to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, fell through but the plane was painted in Navy blue in anticipation of that move.

“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, Pima Air and Space Museum. A sister ship, Hawaii Mars, which fought fires up until 2015, will be sent to the B.C. Aviation Museum in Sidney, B.C., near Victoria. “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,” said Coulson Group CEO Wayne Coulson.

What’s not clear is how the massive flying boat will get to Tucson. It has no landing gear and operates only from water. It needs a relatively big body of water to take off and land, and there is no such open water in the immediate area of the museum.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Remove the wings and truck the aircraft to Pima. Have been to their museum and it is a great place for the Mars. If Hughes could do the same with the Spruce Goose/H-4 then this can be done.

  2. Maybe fly it to the nearest lake then helicopter it to the museum there are a few massive sky cranes that might do the job

    • The Martin Mars empty weight is 75,000 lbs. which is about 3X what the largest heavy lift helicopters are capable of lifting. This is a massive seaplane.

  3. Just glad that I was able to see one of them flying at OSH before going to that non-flying hangar status.

  4. “What’s not clear is how the massive flying boat will get to Tucson. It has no landing gear and operates only from water.”

    The same way it was launched: Remove the wings and tail, put it on a truck and ship it.

    The same way a lot of AC at Pima got there… on a truck!

    • I’m pretty sure the majority of aircraft PASM got their by air to DMAFB then a short tow across the road to the museum.

    • The same way it was launched?? As in trundle it out of the factory on a dolly, across the apron, and down the seaplane ramp into Chesapeake Bay? And truck it??? It’s the same order of magnitude in size as a 747. A whole lot lighter, yes, but still a wee bit large to truck.

      • I spent January 2023 and January 2024 in Tucson. It snowed there more than once in January both years, admittedly, not enough to accommodate a Martin Mars.

  5. Good news. Sad to see it stop flying but happy to know that it will be preserved for future generations. If it crashed it would be gone forever.

  6. When my Father (US Navy) was transferred from Pearl Harbor to Newport for War College in 1948, we flew to San Francisco on a Mars Flying Boat. At the age of 7, I was allowed to wander around the entire airplane, and I have associated that experience with my future career as an Air Force Pilot. In the Air Force, I was qualified in and flew the T-37 and T-38, the C-141, the O1E (in SEA slightly over 500 combat hours), the C-47, the Helio Courier U-10, T-29, and WC-130. Over 4,500 hours and commanded the 54WRS Typhoon Chasers.

  7. While it may take me a while to get to Pima again and it is a bit sad that they won’t fly again, I am glad these behemoths will be preserved so one can marvel at their sheer size. Way better than losing them to crashes while firefighting.

  8. I find some of these transportation solutions funny. Granted you may not be familiar with Tucson geography or climate, still funny though.