Images reveal intact 'flying pencil'
Sat, 09 Apr 2011 19:52:24 GMT
The Port of London Authority (PLA) says a German bomber, which was shot down over the English Channel during World War II, is well preserved.
A high-tech sonar survey revealed that the rare airplane is intact and lies at the bottom of the sea where it crashed in 1940, Reuters reported.
It is said that the Dornier 17 was hit during the Battle of Britain and ditched in Goodwin Sands, just off the Kent coast, southeast England.
Thought to be world's last known example, the airplane is laying upside-down in 50 feet of water and becomes partially visible whenever the sands retreat.
An official with the RAF Museum at Hendon in London said he was "incredulous" when he first heard of the aircraft's existence and potential preservation.
"This aircraft is a unique airplane and it's linked to an iconic event in British history, so its importance cannot be over-emphasized, nationally and internationally," Ian Thirsk told the state-funded BBC.
"It's one of the most significant aeronautical finds of the century," Thirsk added.
The Dornier 17 was first designed as a passenger plane in 1934, but was later changed into a fighter because it was hard to hit and could theoretically outpace enemy fighter aircraft.
Known as "the flying pencil," the aircraft struggled in the war with a limited range and bomb load capability and many were scrapped afterwards.
High-resolution images taken by the PLA, however, show that the last Dornier 17 has only suffered minor damage to its forward cockpit and observation windows.
"The bomb bay doors were open, suggesting the crew jettisoned their cargo," said PLA spokesman Martin Garside.
"The fact that it was almost entirely made of aluminum and produced in one piece may have contributed to its preservation," Garside said.
Experts say the plane is vulnerable to the area's shifting sands and has been the target of recreational divers.
The RAF Museum has launched an appeal to raise funds for the lifting operation.