With salvage consistently hampered by poor weather and seabed geology that prevented the fitment of their carefully-engineered lifting frame, the Royal Air Force Museum nonetheless successfully managed to wrest a Dornier Do 17 from the oceans grasp today, the plane breaking the surface of the water for the first time in 70 years.
This plane is the last surviving example of the Dornier Do 17 in the world, which although conceived as a fast reconnaissance aircraft, made for an extremely effective medium duty bomber and was used extensively by the Luftwaffe during The Battle of Britain. The Dornier 17, nicknamed “der fliegende bleistift” (the flying pencil) by its pilots for it’s extremely slender fuselage was believed to be call-sign 5K-AR, shot down on August 26, 1940 during the height of the bombardment campaign against England, and now that the plane is at the surface its identity has been confirmed by the plane’s data plate.
The lift had began last Sunday but deteriorating weather conditions forced the abortion of the operation partway through and over the course of the past month, weather conditions have been so rough that the lifting barge had to return to port four times. Complications with the seabed, compounded by the limited time to work caused by the weather forced the salvage team to proceed without the support frame that was originally envisaged, but though a few parts of the plane did fall off during it’s trip to the surface, on the whole the plane remained intact and dropped parts will be retrieved separately for their reunion with the aircraft. All in all this salvage operation must be considered an unmitigated triumph for the RAF Museum and aviation enthusiasts the world-over.
The Do 17 will be heading to a specially built enclosure for an 18-month acid bath to halt corrosion before its restoration for display. Clearly there’s a lot of work ahead. Stay tuned!