Salvage operations have begun to raise the last surviving German Dornier Do 17 (an aircraft known as “the flying pencil”) from its resting place off the Kent Coast where it crashed in 50 feet of water after being shot down in the Battle of Britain. A floating crane was towed into place on Friday and divers are expected to start building a steel frame around the wreckage this weekend with the hope the aircraft can be lifted onto a barge within three weeks.
Sonar images have confirmed the Dornier Do 17 is in good condition with its tyres still inflated and the fuselage, wings, engines and propellers still there, but its missing bomb doors, cockpit glazing and undercarriage doors which were all damaged or torn off upon impact.
The Dornier Do 17 was shot down over the Goodwin Sands in August 1940 with the pilot and his observer being taken prisoner while the bodies of the other two fliers were washed ashore. Few Dornier 17’s survived the war as they were scrapped for their valuable aluminium frames – meaning the one off the Kent coast is the only surviving example but raising the aircraft won’t be easy as divers can only work for 45 minutes at a time and they will need to deal with the tides plus other challenges.
The Guardian has a great interactive with the following screens showing where the aircraft was downed and how salvagers intend to lift it:
In addition, the RAFMuseum YouTube Channel has the following video posted with an animation made from the sonar scans of the aircraft:
Finally, it should be mentioned that the RAF Museum is seeking to raise another £250,000 to help support conservation of the aircraft and major donors will be offered the opportunity to witness the raising of the Dornier first hand. To learn more about making a donation, click here.