The Dornier Do 17, sometimes referred to as the Fliegender Bleistift (German: "flying pencil"), was a World War II German light bomber produced by the Dornier Flugzeugwerke. It 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 maneuverable handling at low altitude, which made the Dornier capable of surprise bombing attacks. Its sleek and thin airframe made it harder to hit than other German bombers, as it presented less of a target.
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 Legion Condor 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 war, and saw action in significant numbers in every major campaign theater 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. Production of the Dornier ended in the summer of 1940, in favor of the newer and more powerful Junkers Ju 88.
Source: Wikipedia, "Dornier Do 17", available under the CC-BY-SA License.
As Described In
Their Finest Hour: The Do 17z-2, which had extra protective armor, a redesigned nose, and a cockpit with more room and greater visibility, was delivered to the Luftwaffe in 1939. Unfortunately, the Messerschmitt factory had top priority and got to use the Daimler Benz engine for its Bf 109s, forcing the Do 17z-2 to use the less powerful BMW Bramo Fafnir engine, which greatly reduced its speed. During the Battle of Britain the Do 17z-2 was first used against Channel convoys, then on bombing missions against airfields and factories inland, where it did extensive damage despite suffering heavy losses. The Do 17 enjoyed success as a low altitude bomber, since it could dive on a target with its engines at full throttle and then pick up enough speed to get away after dropping its bombload. Although it had several drawbacks, including a relatively light warhead load, the ruggedness, maneuverability, and stability of the Flying Pencil made it popular with the men who flew it.