The Continuity of Flight; the Martin Mars


Part of the reason why I am attracted to the classic parts of aviation instead of the Popular Science New and exciting and will never happen! BS stories is because much of modern consumer aviation has no soul, it is just junk that has no connection to the timeless traditions and values of flight. Here is a good example of how something classic in flight can thread its way through time.



Above: Martin Mars, flying down the runway at Oshkosh 2016. This photo was actually taken by Grace with her cell phone. If you were there, you will understand the use of adjectives like Spellbinding and Majestic. I have been to Oshkosh 25 times, and I can’t remember anything that compared with this.  I don’t know what specific thought the flight brought to mind in the other people watching, but for me, it brought thoughts of one old photo from the family album….



Above, Martin Mars, August 1st 1945, moored at the US Naval Academy. The two people on the right are my Grandparents, they were there to visit my Father. Dad had enlisted in the Navy at 17 in 1943, but they opened the entrance exams for the class of ’49 to any enlisted man in the fleet. He entered Annapolis late in the spring of ’45, when the war was still raging in the Pacific. Look at my Grandfather’s face, as this was likely the happiest day of his life. As a veteran of savage trench fighting in WWI, his real wish in life was that his only son, my father, would not have the same experience. To him, dad getting into the Naval Academy mean he would survive the war, and my grandfather was quietly happy with this. If you were to read a single story I have written, make it this one: A clarification and a century old story. It explains the bond between my father and grandfather, and why I am not judgmental about the motivations of others. My grandfathers quiet joy didn’t last, as my father went to both Korea and Vietnam.  My Grandfather was a hard man, who feared very little in life, but if you would like to understand the full measure of human toughness, you can read this story about my Grandmother: Italo Balbo in 1933, an 83 year old family story.




Martin only made seven Mars flying boats. They were named after island groups. The plane at Oshkosh was originally the “Hawaii Mars” in Navy service. I originally thought there was a 1 in 7 chance it was the same one in the picture with my Grandparents, but it isn’t. The one in the 1945 picture was the original “Hawaii Mars”, but it was actually destroyed in a crash just 5 days after the photo. It was replaced with the “Hawaii Mars II” which was the plane at Oshkosh.


In 1953 my father returned from his second deployment to Korea by flying across the pacific on a Mars. They made several stops on the long trip, including one in the middle of the night at Wake Island. Some of the passengers wanted the O club to open while the plane was being refueled. One of them decided to cool off by diving into the pool. He didn’t see that it was empty. This is referenced in the second paragraph of my father’s story Patriotism has no Party.














About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at and in more than 50 magazine articles.

4 Responses to The Continuity of Flight; the Martin Mars

  1. David Jones says:

    William, the Hawaii was damaged there when landing on Winibago? lake. Is there any news on the repair efforts? When I left Oskosh they were pumping water as fast as they could.

  2. Dan Branstrom says:

    The Mars was able to fly home. Here is the article that I found.

  3. Sarah Ashmore says:

    Back in the 70’s when I was new to flying the magazine Air Progress did a nice piece of the fleet of Mars aircraft and their fire bomber mission which they were quite good at. I was a bit surprised to learn that one was still flying here in the post Y2K period. There was also a nice documentary on History Channel or one of its relatives that showed the Hawaii being brought back to service after a winter’s hibernation and taken down to Mexico to fight a raging brush fire. That was an interesting look at the adaptions built into the plane to allow for maintenance when floating on water. Alas those were the glory days of aviation when new boundaries were being crossed, now the big news is an airliner burns X% less fuel.

  4. Peter Hansen says:

    Seeing the Mars fly by was a major highlight of Oshkosh this year. It was bittersweet considering that we may never see it again. I particularly remember feeling the spray of Lake Winnebago water seconds after she passed by, a delightful surprise.

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