Danish divers and the Aviation History Society (DFS) of Denmark have recovered a rare World War II German night-fighter off the northern Jutland peninsula and are to restore the aircraft.
The only known other full example of the aircraft is said to be in the United States, where it was taken following the war after it and two other of the aircraft were confiscated by US Army Intelligence Service from the Grove Air Force Base in Jutland, Denmark.
One of the more advanced aircraft to be built during WWII, it was the first military aircraft in the world to be equipped with ejection seats and was equipped with an effective VHF intercept radar designed to seek out and attack allied bombers. It is also said to be one of the first operational aircraft with cockpit pressurisation.
Found in the Tannis Bay between Hirtshals and Skagen in Denmark, the plane’s tricycle landing gear gave it away.
“Landing gear is just like a fingerprint on humans, but I found it difficult to believe that we had such a rare aircraft in Denmark,” says DFS Chairman and aircraft archaeologist Ib Lødsen adding the recovery was like waiting for a Christmas present.
“It was so exciting. You never know whether you’re going to get what you want. I was a little disappointed,” he adds, saying that wires to the aircraft’s instruments had been cut, suggesting that someone had tampered with the aircraft previously.
The only parts of the aircraft that remain to be found are one of its two engines and part of the tail, which probably included the aircraft number, which in turn would help determine why the aircraft ended up in Tannis Bay.
The aircraft is now to be transported to the Garrison Museum in Aalborg where it is to be restored and exhibited.
“People interested in aircraft will come from all over to see it. It’s something of a sensation,” Lødsen says.
Only some 294 of the aircraft, which was nicknamed Eagle-Owl, were ever built for the Luftwaffe. The Heinkel HE-219 in the United States, which until now was said to be the last existing aircraft of its type, was flown from Denmark to Cherbourg in France in 1945 where it was packed aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Reaper and taken to America as part of the Lusty intelligence operation to glean technical information from German aircraft.
The exhibit is currently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum annex at Washington Dulles Airport.
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Edited by Julian Isherwood