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The Dornier 217 Bomber

The Dornier Do 217 was a multi-faceted performer for the German Luftwaffe that ended up fulfilling various roles from bomber to reconnaissance aircraft, aerial test bed to torpedo bomber. The twin-engine 4-man aircraft appeared in prototype form by 1938 and would see several variants exist before the end of the war. The Do 217 was more suited to bomber and reconnaissance duties as the design did not match up well against Allied fighters of most types and succeeded the Dornier Do 215 light bomber / reconnaissance aircraft in the company's production schedule. 

Design of the Do 217 followed along the same lines of earlier Dornier bomber designs. The cockpit and crew areas were situated towards the front of the aircraft resulting in a pencil-type fuselage shape. Engines were mounted on a high-wing monoplane and the vertical tail surface was split in a traditional "T" design. Armament consisted of 2 x 13mm machine guns of MG131 type and a collection of 6 x 7.92mm MG81 machine guns - some held in the noticeable gondola under the fuselage. The Do 217 was capable of carrying an external and internal bomb load not exceeding 8,810lbs. 

The Do 217 was initially conceived of as a reconnaissance platform and appeared as such in the Do 217A model version with Daimler-Benz series DB 601 engines. Though limited to just 8 production examples, the A model was succeeded by the E model which featured more powerful engines of the BMW brand. This particular model series became a multirole platform, utilized for various reconnaissance and bomber roles including that of torpedo bomber for anti-ship duty and compatible with the Henschel Hs 293 missile.  The Do 217K series was later introduced in 1942 and would be the platform designed to carry the Fritz X missile system. A night fighter derivative was also conceived, complete with radar and an additional 4 guns angled up and forwards for interception duty.  Though a promising design in and of itself, it was hardly capable of going toe-to-toe with contemporary fighters in a straight-up dogfight.

Beneath the Waves

This rare German wartime bomber which was discovered on a sandbank 70 years after it was shot down during the Battle of Britain is to be raised, The twin-engined Dornier 17 first emerged from Goodwin Sands, a ten-mile long sandbank off the coast of Deal, Kent, two years ago, a spokesman for the RAF Museum said.  Since then, the museum has worked with Wessex Archaeology to complete a full survey of the wreck site, usually associated with shipwrecks, before the plane is recovered and eventually exhibited as part of the Battle of Britain Beacon project.


An underwater side scan of a twin-engined Dornier 17 German wartime bomber, found on a sandbank off Deal, Kent, 70 years after it was shot down during the Battle of Britain. The RAF Museum plans to raise the well-preserved aircraft and put it on display. The aircraft - known as a Flying Pencil due to its sleek design and stick-like lines - was part of a large enemy formation which attempted to attack airfields in Essex on August 26, 1940 but was intercepted by RAF fighter aircraft above Kent before the convoy reached its target.


The plane's pilot, Willi Effmert, attempted to carry out a wheels-up landing on Goodwin Sands but, although he landed safely, the aircraft sank.  He and one other crew member were captured but another 2 men died.



Bedding Down: The 'Flying Pencil' bomber was discovered when a fishing boat snagged its nets on the wreckage in 2009.

The plane was found in 'remarkable' condition considering the years it has spent underwater, and is largely intact with its main undercarriage tyres inflated and its propellers still showing the damage they suffered during its final landing.  'The discovery of the Dornier is of national and international importance.  'The aircraft is a unique and unprecedented survivor from the Battle of Britain'.  It is particularly significant because, as a bomber, it formed the heart of the Luftwaffe assault and the subsequent Blitz.  'The Dornier will provide an evocative and moving exhibit that will allow the museum to present the wider story of the Battle of Britain and highlight the sacrifices made by the young men of both air forces and from many nations.'  Work to prepare the Dornier for display will be undertaken at the RAF Museum's conservation centre in Cosford, Shropshire.  The RAF Museum, with the support of English Heritage and the Ministry of Defence, is now developing a recovery plan to protect the aircraft from any further damage and to provide for its long-term preservation.  There is concern that material may have been removed from the wreck site, although a number of items have been retrieved.


The basic Do-17E model was designed for Deutsche Lufthansa in 1934 as a fast mail plane. Hitler subsequently got interested and it was further developed via 12 prototype variants into the Do-17 medium bomber, powered by a couple of 12-cylinder V engines generating 750 hp each.  Further developments for operations in different military fields - reconnaissance, training etc eventually led to the Do-215, designed for the (pre-war!) Yugoslav Air Force. This in turn spawned the Do-217 with much more powerful 14 cylinder radial engines capable of 1580 hp, giving a range of 1740 miles.  With this greater overall performance it was re-designated as a heavy bomber. - Nigel M.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013