As we recently reported, the retrieval of what is believed to be the world’s only intact Dornier Do 17 from the Goodwin Sands off the eastern coast of England began last week. The underwater salvage crew has surveyed the site and has found that as hoped, the plane has not suffered additional deterioration due to severe overwinter storms that had hit the area.
The plane was force landed by its German crew over 70 years ago after being critically damaged by Royal Air Force fighters during the Battle of Britain. The entire crew escaped from the plane before it sank. Those that survived their injuries were interred by the British for the duration of the war. As there are no human remains associated with the crash site, it is not considered a “War Grave” under the UK’s Protection of Military Remains Act of 1986, which protects the sites of all military wrecks within the United Kingdom and it’s territorial waters, simplifying the Ministry of Defence permitting process under which the retrieval is taking place.
The retrieval and restoration project has been painstakingly planned for over three years and in light of the fragility of the aluminum plane after spending so many years submerged in corrosive saltwater, divers from the retrieval team will be fitting a custom-fabricated cage to support the craft for its ascent from its resting place 50 feet below the surface. Once above the water, the plane will be placed on a barge which will bring the plane to the Royal Air Force Museum’s restoration facility where it is anticipated an 18-month bath in citric acid will be required to halt the corrosion process brought on by the sea, to be followed by a restoration of this historically significant and vanishingly rare warbird.