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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 13:10 GMT
3D plane wreck image aids project
The survey has revealed new information about the wreck.

Enthusiasts aiming to raise the wreck of a World War II plane from the seabed have a better idea of the task ahead of them thanks to some computer wizardry.

A sonar survey combined with digital technology has led to the creation of 3D images of the Sunderland Flying Boat under 60ft of water off Pembroke Dock.

It has revealed new information about its condition, possible structural weaknesses and precise location.

A trust aims to recover, restore and eventually display the aircraft.

The Mark 1 Sunderland based at the former RAF Station sank without casualties in a gale in 1940 and was only discovered by divers decades later under 60ft (18.3m) of water.

The unique aeroplanes played a key role in the Battle of the Atlantic and Pembroke Dock became the largest flying boat station in the world.

Sunderland flying boat
This information will play a crucial role in future efforts to recover this unique piece of World War II history
Brian Bullock, SRD

Sonar Research & Development Ltd (SRD) has recently completed a detailed sonar survey of the submerged wreck by bouncing sound signals off the seabed.

Using its own software, it was then able to convert the data to create virtual images of the wreck site and the surrounding area.

It allows the wreck to be viewed from all angles on a computer screen and has revealed valuable information about the wreck's condition and possible points of weakness in the airframe structure.

Managing director Brian Bullock said: "Our unique sonar system has allowed us to generate superb 3D images of the wreck of the Sunderland.

"The Pembroke Dock Team has been impressed by the quality of the images we have been able to produce - which clearly show what remains of the fuselage, cockpit and wings, together with precise information about its exact location and orientation.

Virtual 3D model
The virtual 3D model has been created using sonar and digital technology

"This information will play a crucial role in future efforts to recover this unique piece of World War II history."

The aircraft flew 14 operational missions before it sank, and is the only surviving Mark I Sunderland.

There are just three other military Sunderlands left in the world, all later Mark V versions, which differ significantly from the Mark I.

The Pembroke Dock Sunderland Trust hopes to raise the wreck, restore it and put on display as part of a new Battle of the Atlantic Exhibition in the town.

Project manager John Evans said: "The survey results are more than we had hoped for and give us an excellent platform upon which we can build the next stage of the project."

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