By David Wilkes
Created 12:51 PM on 8th April 2011
Bomber which sank 71 years ago could be last of its kind
Expert hails ‘one of the most significant aeronautical finds of the century’
Shot down as the Battle of Britain raged, the German bomber disappeared beneath the murky waves never to be seen again – or so it seemed for 70 years.
In fact, the doomed Dornier 17 has weathered the ravages of time and tide far better than it did our fighter pilots’ machine guns.
New underwater images show the plane lying 50ft deep in the English Channel, remarkably well preserved except for damage to the forward cockpit, observation windows and propellers. Some of its undercarriage tyres are still inflated.
Killing machine: A German Dornier 17 – the plane was armed with up to 2,000lbs of bombs
Military historians are ‘incredulous’ at the discovery of the plane – the most complete surviving example of its type – off the Kent coast. It is now hoped it can be raised and put on display to the public.
Yesterday Ian Thirsk, head of collections at the RAF Museum in Hendon, north-west London, said: ‘This aircraft is a unique aeroplane and it’s linked to an iconic event in British history, so its importance cannot be overemphasised, nationally and internationally. It’s one of the most significant aeronautical finds of the century.’
About 1,700 Dornier 17s – nicknamed ‘flying pencils’ because of their narrow fuselage – were built, originally as passenger planes.