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The Dornier Do 17, sometimes referred to as the Fliegender Bleistift ("flying pencil"), is a light bomber of Nazi Germany during World War II. It was produced by Claudius Dornier's company, Dornier Flugzeugwerke. The aircraft was designed as a Schnellbomber ("fast bomber"), a light bomber which, in theory, would be so fast that it could outrun defending fighter aircraft.
The Dornier was designed with two engines mounted on a "shoulder wing" structure and possessed a twin tail fin configuration. The type was popular among its crews due to its handling, especially at low altitude, which made the Do 17 harder to hit than other German bombers.
Designed in the early 1930s, it was one of the three main Luftwaffe bomber types used in the first three years of the war. The Do 17 made its combat debut in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, operating in the Condor Legion in various roles. Along with the Heinkel He 111 it was the main bomber type of the German air arm in 1939–1940. The Dornier was used throughout the early war, and saw action in significant numbers in every major campaign theatre as a front line aircraft until the end of 1941, when its effectiveness and usage was curtailed as its bomb load and range were limited.
It is claimed that, unlike the Heinkel He 111 series, whose military use was planned from the start, the Do 17 V1 was contracted as a fast six-passenger mail plane to compete with the smaller Heinkel He 70 monoplane It has been suggested that it was rejected by Luft Hansa, as the cramped cabin was too uncomfortable for passenger use and the operating costs were too high for a mail plane. According to the story, the three prototypes remained unused in the Dornier factory in Lowental for almost six months, until Flight Captain Untucht of Luft Hansa came across them. After receiving permission to fly one of the machines, he proceeded to put it through an almost stunt flying routine. After landing, he said that "the machine is as nimble as a fighter, give it more lateral stability and we'll have a high speed bomber!" Untucht's comments prompted Dornier to redesign the tail unit and revived interest in the type.
Dornier was then ordered to produce the V4 prototype. Some sources state this differed from the V3 in that the passenger portholes were removed and the single fin was replaced with two smaller ones. Photographic evidence demonstrates the V3 had twin stabilizers from the start of its construction. The tests of the "twin-tailed" V4, V6 and V7 prototypes were positive and more prototypes like the V8 emerged as the forerunner of the long-range reconnaissance version, while the V9 was tested as a high-speed airliner. The V9 machine was still flying in 1944.
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