Work began last week to raise what is believed to be the last surviving example of the Donier Do 17, located on its back in a sand formation 50 feet below the surface, six miles off the shore of Kent, England by the RAF Museum. While several museums and collections have pieces of Dornier 17s in their possession, it is believed that this plane is the only mostly intact example of the craft of which over two thousand were produced.
The Dornier 17, nicknamed “der fliegende bleistift” (the flying pencil) by its pilots for it’s extremely slender fuselage, was originally designed for fast reconnaissance duties but was repurposed by the mid-thirties to be an extremely effective low altitude medium bomber, capable of flying at below tree-top level for surprise bombing runs and was a mainstay of the Luftwaffe during The Battle of Britain.
This particular plane is believed to have force landed in the water in August of 1940, and was quickly covered by the ever-shifting sands of the Goodwin Formation. The plane was discovered by a diver five years ago, and given its rarity and historical significance the RAF Museum is undertaking this daunting retrieval and restoration project. A supporting frame is to be built around the plane which is anticipated take place over the next month, and after it has been lifted and transported to the RAF Museum’s facility in Cosford, the plane will be bathed in citric acid to neutralize the salt water-induced corrosion of the past 70 years in a procedure that is anticipated to take another 18 months.