Raising the Dornier

On Sunday 2nd June the Royal Air Force Museum attempted to lift the world’s last surviving Dornier 17 from the bottom of the English Channel, just off Goodwin Sands, following three weeks of intensive engineering and archaeological work. After three years of planning, the Museum came within 40 minutes of success when a sudden increase in winds around the Goodwin Sands area made the sea too choppy to complete the lift. Regrettably, and with the safety of the crew and the aircraft in mind, the lift was called off.

With success within grasp, the Royal Air Force Museum has been hugely encouraged by the support received from across the globe. Not only has this taken the form of messages of goodwill, but the Museum has received substantial additional funding from private individuals and organisations in Europe and America determined to see this historic project brought to a successful conclusion.

The forecast now suggests two weather windows this week when we can return to the wreck site and complete the lift. These are Monday 10th June between 1530 – 1800hrs and early Tuesday morning between 03.30 – 06.30hrs.

If this proves to be the case, and we know how erratic the weather has been this year, we will raise the Dornier early this week for transfer to our conservation facility at Cosford.

Despite the exceptionally poor weather over the past month, which has required the salvage team to return to port on at least four occasions, everything is now set for the aircraft to be successfully lifted from the seabed where it has lain for over seventy years.

Because of the weather difficulties and strict deadline to save the aircraft, the Museum has instructed the dive company SeaTech to alter their methodology of assembling a lifting frame around aircraft to ensure the operation is complete within the given boundaries.

The new method which is more delicate in nature, involves attaching lifting equipment to specific points on the aircraft that the Museum have identified as the strongest parts of the airframe. An attempt will still be made to raise it complete, and in a single lift.

Once the aircraft has been laid on onto the support barge it will be transported directly to Ramsgate Harbour where it will be dismantled for travel to the Museum’s Conservation Centre at Cosford.

Peter Dye Director General, Royal Air Force Museum “We have adapted the lifting frame design to minimise the loads on the airframe during the lift while allowing the recovery to occur within the limited time remaining. The RAF Museum has worked extremely closely with SeaTech throughout this process and both organisations remain determined to complete this challenging task and see the Dornier safely recovered as planned and delivered to the Museum’s Conservation Centre for preservation and public exhibition.”

Dornier Project – A recap

The Royal Air Force Museum is undertaking an exciting, challenging and historically fascinating project to remove a German bomber, the last remaining Dornier 17, from the sea-bed off Kent right now. The project was made possible with funding by The National Heritage Memorial Fund.

The complex project has not been entered into lightly and has used a number of ground-breaking techniques for underwater recovery and conservation. It has been undertaken with an impressive group of experts ranging from chemists and physicists from Imperial College London who advised on the conservation and structural integrity of the aircraft, to SeaTech who are managing the actual lift.

The project has stimulated a huge amount of interest across the world and events are being followed closely by millions around the world.

This is not the first time the Museum salvaged an aircraft wreck, as a visit shows, other examples have been found and reassembled before. Should the weather provide additional challenges to the actual integrity of the aircraft, the Museum is committed to salvaging the parts it can in order to treat, examine and exhibit this incredible part of aviation history.


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