The Hawaii Mars will not have its contract renewed by the province, according to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
“We appreciate the assistance of the Mars and its crews during this busy fire season,” said MFLNRO public affairs officer Greig Bethel.
“[The] B.C. Wildfire Service has reviewed the anticipated weather over the next while, as well as expected requirements, and doesn’t believe it will need the Mars at this time.”
The province had originally signed a $450,000 30-day deal with the Coulson Group for the use of the Hawaii Mars back on July 8. Each hour flight time also cost the province $11,000 in fuel and flight costs.
The agreement came with the option to extend for another 30 days, which the province has not taken.
Due to health issues of one of the Mars’ flight crew as well as a training contract between Coulson and the International Test Pilot School, the contract was extended till Aug. 25.
“The Hawaii Mars reliability, serviceability and performance for the past 40 days has been perfect and is a testament to our team and the people that worked in the Mars program for the last five decades achieving excellence in aviation, firefighting and safety,” said Coulson Group CEO Wayne Coulson.
“What an honor it is on behalf of our company to serve the Province of B.C. and support the hard working men and women firefighters that tackle the fire line every day.”
Despite having been parked for 22 months, Coulson said that only two days of crew training were needed before the Mars spent 40 days in flight with no issues.
“This is not an outdated unreliable aircraft flying 70 flight hours in 40 days between the province and the Chinese government contract,” said Coulson. Out of the 70 hours, 22 were taken up by the Chinese government contract according to the flight school.
According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, “the Martin Mars flew for 24 flight hours (including practice) on five missions split between four fires” at an estimated cost of $736,000 to the province.
The remaining 24 hours were not accounted for by the News’ press time.
With B.C. not renewing the Mars’ contract, Coulson is looking down south for more work.
“I have been in contact with the Incident Command team members in Washington state offering the Mars up as a resource,” he said.
“However the aircraft in [the] state have been grounded due to smoke over the last couple of days and [so we] will stay in contact.”