The Martin Mars air tanker, which saw service last summer in northern California during the Seige of ’08, has a new contract with the U.S. Forest Service. The 7,200 gallon air tanker will be based at Lake Elsinore, California from June 1 through November 15, 2009 with an option to renew for two additional years.
Coulson Flying Tankers, who owns the ship, has invested $500,000 in new instrumentation for the plane and for thermo-imaging equipment for the Sikorski helicopter which will serve as a “bird dog”, or lead plane as it is termed in the United States. The helicopter will collect thermal images of the fire which can be transmitted to a ground station.
This contract means the ship, named Hawaii Mars, will not be available during this period for fighting fire in British Columbia where the company is based.
Coulson has a second Martin Mars, named Phillipine Mars, which was not used in the United States last year, but the company is nogotiating to put it under contract in Australia. There will be a crew of 20 in rotation in California, and if the second ship finds work down under, the company will need to train additional people to work with the Phillipine Mars in Australia.