Canada/ Mexico — The Hawaii Mars is on its way back home.
The giant water bomber had another successful mission fighting wildfires in Mexico that just ended on Wednesday.
“It was excellent,” Wayne Coulson, chief executive officer of the Coulson Group, said. “The aircraft operated flawlessly.”
The Martin Mars was hired by the Mexican government for 20 days to help quell wildfires that were sparked by lightning just near the Texas border.
“The Mexican government has been a wonderful customer. We anticipate going back there again and continue to work with them,” Coulson said.
It was a good test for the Port Alberni-stationed aircraft as it recorded more hours on the air than it has ever before. It average over five hours a day in the first 17 days of the contract.
“In the last few days we basically put the bulk of the fire out,” Coulson said. “We have flown an excess of 100 loads down there. The crews that we had there did an incredible job. We didn’t miss a day on the contract.”
The aircraft was fully utilized to great effect. Coulson said typically and traditionally, the Mars program over the last 50 years has run anywhere from a minimum of 25 hours to a maximum of 100 hours per season.
“Between us moving the aircraft there and back, we’re going to be just about 150 hours in about 26 days,” said Coulson. “It never had that many hours in that short a time frame in its history.”
The aircraft, through the help of high-tech equipment from its accompanying Sikorsky S76 helicopter, was able to douse flames with great efficiency and accuracy.
“What really work for us was the camera on the S76. It has two screens — a 26 inch flat screen HD in the back and 14 inch screen on the front,” Coulson explained. “We had two Mexican crews fly with us. They could view the spots from the screens and they would show us where they want the Mars to make the drops.
“We would have a discussion and debate about which targets work for us and what we could do as the best outcome for them. It was very interactive and that’s mainly due to the videos. They can see exactly what we we’re doing. If we didn’t have that it would have been very, very difficult to communicate what the customer wanted.”
Coulson also added that the Mexican officials got the opportunity to see the results first hand.
“That’s what got us more traction with the Mexican government,” Coulson said. “We were working on thermal imaging so they can see the heat and the fire going out. So for us, and for them, it was an excellent tool.”
The Hawaii Mars scooped water off the Amistad Reservoir in Del Rio, Texas where it was stationed during its Mexican mission. It has the ability to carry 27,000 litres of water, along with fire-suppressing gel, that it drops onto burning land.
The largest water bomber in the world began ferrying its way back to its home base in Sproat Lake. It will stop in Lake Elsinore in California to refuel and is expected to be back home on Friday. It will then be prepped to assume another role -to fight fires for the province of British Columbia for 90 days, starting in June.