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Vancouver Island's Bush planes

The Martin Mars is arguably the most impressive propeller driven aircraft ever built and makes aviation enthusiasts go to Sproat Lake, specifically to see them. However, Vancouver Island has much more to offer in terms of amphibians as you will see in this report.

Coulson Flying Tankers is the current operator of the sole operational Martin Mars. Seen here is C-FLYL, Hawaii Mars, the second Mars bearing that name.

These airframes were intended to be used as Patrol Bombers, or "PB". The Martin Mars is a very scaled up version of the PB1M Martin Mariner. The prototype of the new Martin Model 170 twin-tailed BuAer1520, was designated XPB2M-1. But before the US Navy placed an order, that tasking was changed to Utility Transport, or "JR". At first this was visualized by adding an "R" to its designation, XPB2M-1R. More alterations were made, slightly more powerful engines, lengthened hull, deletion of provisions for weapons, and the aircraft was delivered to the US Navy as JRM-1 in June 1945.

Undoubtedly, the fact that, after the prototype, only six were completed adds to the enigmatic and unique character of this aircraft. These were not built until the very late stages Word War II and because of that, the single one already operated along with the five aircraft under construction were taken up from 1945. Of these six, two crashed but the other four remained in service until 1956. Among them was a single JRM-2 with more powerful engines and in due course, the JRM-1 were all re-engined with Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp major engines to increase their weight carrying capacity, becoming JRM-3 in the process.

After being auctioned off and resold, they ended up in British Colombia with Forest Industries Flying Tankers. Interestingly, upon conversion to water bombers they received the old Wright R-3350-24WA Cyclone radial engines again. During the early operating years they lost two airframes, leaving just the couple that remain until the present day, C-FLYK/"Philippine Mars" (c/n 9264, BuAer76820), and C-FLYL/"Hawaii Mars" (c/n 9267, BuAer76823).

Another aircraft with great pedigree and still going strong as bush plane, is the DHC-2 Beaver. Although many have been converted with turboprop engines, the float planes featuring the radial ones are still present in abundance too. Freshly painted C-FSKZ is seen here in fine shape taking off from Gold River.

Another Gold River departure from Air Nootka on 15 August 2013. Unfortunately, this aircraft crashed the very next day killing one of the passengers... This airframe started life on 9 March 1956 as a US Army L-20A Beaver 51-1722. Also of note is that it was recovered after being submerged in 2006 to be brought back to flight status by 2007. As you can see, our Aviagrapher is 'graphed himself from one of the panoramic windows installed on many Beavers for pleasure flights!

The Beaver is a very common means of transport, it is either that or a motor boat to get around the vast wilderness. Campbell River is another hotspot for many vintage bush planes. This C-FIGF c/n 834 has proudly worn this registration for 50 years already!

Another Campbell River resident, C-GACK c/n 711 is ready to take more customers and cargo on a fishing, hunting or hiking trip. Like many of its brethren, it started life in uniform as L-20A 53-7903 on 28 October 1954.

Much less widespread and less famous perhaps, is the DHC-3 Otter. The father of the DHC-6 Twin Otter still in production as Viking DHC-6-400, many of the Otters have received turboprop engines. If you think that the Beavers have colourful histories, much of the Otter's logbooks read as adventure novels. This particular aircraft C-GVIX c/n 97 started life in the military as U-1A 55-2355 on 12 March 1956 and operated in various intelligence gathering and topographic survey roles in Central America until 1974. It was then taken up in March 1975 by the Costa Rican Guardia Civil and registered as TI-SPE. Although many attempts by Canadian companies were made to buy this aircraft, it kept serving the Costa Rican government until 1980 when it was finally sold off to Canada.

There is no better way to end any article on vintage bush planes than with a Beech 18 on floats! Again, Campbell River Sea Plane Base is the venue. Vancouver Island Air's C-FGNR c/n CA-191 has Canadian pedigree, being a former Royal Canadian Air Force Expeditor 3TM, a military version of the Beech D18S, with registration 2318. It was taken up on 17 July 1952 and served the Canadian armed forces until 26 January 1965 and was subsequently registered CF-GNR. If you want to see it now, you have to go to the USA as it is now registered there as N18XW.